Paul Delvaux



Not on display

Paul Delvaux 1897–1994
Original title
Oil paint on board
Support: 1527 × 950 mm
frame: 1738 × 1155 × 80 mm
Purchased 1982

Display caption

Delvaux did not formally belong to the Surrealist movement. However, the dream-like atmosphere of his works, together with his erotic preoccupation with an ideal female figure, led to him being recognised as one of the leaders of Belgian Surrealism. The subject of this painting is the classical myth of the sexual encounter of Jupiter, disguised as a swan, and Leda. The story was part of the repertoire of traditional art and Delvaux has alluded to the works of past masters such as Raphael and Ingres in some details of the composition. However, the setting is an incongruously modern, urban landscape, which in its emptiness suggests strangeness and alienation.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry

T03361 Leda 1948

Oil on blockboard 60 1/8 × 37 3/8 (1527 × 950)
Inscribed ‘P. DELVAUX/-48’ b.l.
Purchased from the executors of Sir Robert Adeane through the Mayor Gallery (Grant-in-Aid) 1982
Prov: Grosfils, Brussels; Govaert, Ostend; Harry Torczyner, New York; through Harold Diamond, New York; Barry Miller; Mayor Gallery; Sir Robert Adeane 1967
Exh: Art from Belgium, Finch College Museum of Art, New York, January–February 1965 (Delvaux 3, repr. as ‘Le Songe’); Stamford Museum, Stamford, Conn., February 1965 (Delvaux 3, repr.); A Loan Exhibition in Memory of Fred Hoyland Mayor, Mayor Gallery, November–December 1973 (5, repr. as ‘Leda et son Cygne’)
Lit: Paul-Aloîse De Bock, Paul Delvaux: L'Homme, Le Peintre, Psychologie d'un Art, Brussels, 1967, no.93, p.295 as ‘Léda’, repr. pl.93 and detail p.164; Michel Butor, Jean Clair, Suzanne Houbart-Wilkin, Delvaux, Brussels, 1975, no.187, p.225, repr. as ‘Léda’

The artist confirmed that the correct title of this picture is ‘Léda’ (‘Leda’) (and not ‘The Dream’ by which it has sometimes been known) and said that he painted it for his dentist in Brussels, M. Grosfils. It was later sold at auction in Brussels either by M. Grosfils himself or by his family. The background and the constructions are imaginary, while the swan harks back to the time, in 1920–4, when he did a lot of painting from nature at Rouge-Cloître, a place in the forest near Brussels, where there was a lake and some swans (information transmitted by Charles Van Deun, President of the Fondation Paul Delvaux, 13 November 1984).

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1982-84: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1986

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