About this artwork
Paul Delvaux painted The Awakening of the Forest in the late 1930s, after having adopted Surrealism as a visual language to give form to his inner world—one populated with childhood memories and fantasy. For this monumental painting, the artist transformed an episode from Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864), in which Professor Otto Lidenbrock and his nephew Axel discover a prehistoric forest deep inside the earth. Delvaux showed the professor at left, examining a rock or fossil; behind him stands Axel, who bears a striking resemblance to the artist himself. Under a full moon, a group of women in the background appear like automatons. In the foreground, several figures combine human and vegetal elements; these ambiguous figures seem to embody a primordial, as yet undifferentiated, state. A woman in the right foreground and another in the left middle ground, both in Victorian dress, hold lamps and try in a vain to shed light on the unyielding mystery of the scene. Despite the multitude of naked figures and their detailed description, The Awakening of the Forest retains a detachment that adds to its strange and mysterious effect.
- Paul Delvaux
- The Awakening of the Forest
- Oil on canvas
- 67 × 88 3/4 in. (170.2 × 225.4 cm)
- Joseph Winterbotham Collection
- © 2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SABAM, Brussels