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  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artist by the grandfather of the present owner, 1960s

  • Literature

    P. De Bock, Paul Delvaux, Brussels, 1967, no. 140, p. 299 (illustrated)
    J. Dypreau, "Le monde de Paul Delvaux", XXe Siecle, 1968, no. 30, p. 62 (illustrated)
    Depuis 45, Brussels, 1970, p. 108
    M. Butor et al, Delvaux Catalogue de l'Oeuvre Peint, Paris: La Bibliotheque des Arts, 1975, no 258 p. 253 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Paul Delvaux's Soir d'hiver plunges the viewer into a parallel universe infused with stillness, mystery and wonder. In the foreground, the figure of a young girl is shown from behind, leading us into the composition in a manner reminiscent of Caspar David Friedrich's paintings. The girl is shown upon a tree-lined alley; however, despite the street lamps and the view of buildings beyond, the dense woodland engulfing her seems forest-like. Yet there appears to be a sense of purpose to her presence among these looming trees. Meanwhile, at the end of the paved path is a tram, one of Delvaux's most recognised motifs. Despite the presence of the tram, the painting is suffused with a feeling of profoundly dream-like silence.

    The figure of the young girl had come to appear in Delvaux's paintings increasingly during the latter half of the 1950s and early 1960s, having featured in his 1955 work Solitude, a work acquired soon afterwards by the state in his native Belgium and now in the Musée des Beaux Arts in Mons. Variations upon this theme recurred throughout this period, sometimes replacing, and sometimes supplementing, the naked figures who often peopled Delvaux's visions. In Soir d'hiver, the sparsely-populated scene forces the viewer to seek connections between the figures. They stand with a sense of purpose, absorbed in their own arcane rituals, encapsulating the sense of isolation and Surreality that would come to influence Alain Robbe-Grillet's celebrated film, L'année dernière à Marienbad, which was influenced by Delvaux's paintings and was released the same year that Delvaux painted Soir d'hiver.

    Soir d'hiver features the trams that had become increasingly prevalent in his works since 1939, which had also appeared in Solitude. These were conduits for the artist's own memories, reminding him of travelling around in his youth. Trains had appeared in some of Delvaux's early works, dating back to the early 1920s, before the watershed that had led to his unique Surreal vision. Their reappearance therefore reflected a profound connection that had endured the decades. In photographs of Delvaux in his studio in the 1960s, model trains and trams can be seen on the shelves, indicating how he was able to render them with the painstaking detailing visible in Soir d'hiver. This attention to the minutiae within his composition also explains why Delvaux's paintings took so long to complete, meaning that his production was highly limited. Indeed, according to the catalogue raisonné of his works, Delvaux created only eight paintings alongside Soir d'hiver in 1961.

    The tram in Delvaux's pictures was in a sense an analogue for the trains seen in the background of the paintings of Giorgio de Chirico, adding a sense of modernity and movement to their timeless settings. Similarly, the girl who appears in Soir d'hiver recalls De Chirico's 1914 painting, Mélancolie et mystère d'une rue, which had a profound affect on Delvaux. His friend Claude Spaak would recall: 'How many times he told me that the little girl pushing a hoop in an open street where only the shadow of a statue stands out awoke within him secret correspondences' (Claude Spaak, quoted in P.-A. De Bock, Paul Delvaux: L'homme, Le peintre, Psychologie d'un Art, Brussels, 1967, p. 56).

    Like his compatriot and fellow Surrealist René Magritte, Delvaux used an almost inscrutable painting style in order that the brushwork would not distract the viewer from the contents of his pictures. 'Painting is not only the pleasure of putting colours on a canvas,' he explained in terms that clearly apply to Soir d'hiver. 'It is also the expression of a poetic feeling... What interests me is plastic expression, the rediscovery of poetry in painting, which had been lost for centuries’ (Delvaux, quoted in G. Ollinger-Zinque & F. Leen (ed.), Paul Delvaux 1897-1994, exh. cat., Brussels, 1997, p. 21).

Property from a Distinguished European Family Collection

Ο ◆10

Soir D’Hiver

oil on panel
80 x 130 cm (31 1/2 x 51 1/8 in.)
signed and dated 'P. Delvaux 2-61' on the lower right.

£400,000 - 600,000 

Sold for £506,500

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London

+44 207 318 4063

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 9 February 2016 7pm