faculty seminar

The Delvaux Mystery

Thursday 24 May
16.00 -18.00, Research Forum South Room

Delvaux Paul Delvaux, The Greeting (1938 Speaker(s): Dr Gavin Parkinson (The Courtauld Institute of Art)

Ticket/entry details: Open only to members of The Courtauld's teaching staff. RSVP by 21 May for catering purposes to Researchforum@courtauld.ac.uk

Organised by: Professor Caroline Arscott


'Meant to signal in its parodic title both the causal, deductive conventions of academic art history and those of the detective story (which are dismantled by the novels I will be discussing), my paper will look initially at some of the paintings of the Belgian artist Paul Delvaux (1897-1994), and briefly discuss the uses to which that oeuvre has been put by several of the pioneers of the twentieth century novel, such as Michel Butor, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Claude Simon, Julio Cortázar, and J.G. Ballard. It will go on to speculate as to why so many French novelists from the 1950s who interrogated specifically narrative form, together with those inspired by their example, responded to Delvaux’s work in their writing. I move on to inquire into what the genre implications of such writing might be for art history, in which writing and style have had such well-defined boundaries and limitations and discuss the possibilities offered by the postmodern novel to subvert the narrow rationalism and representationalism traditionally demanded by academic art history.’ – Dr Gavin Parkinson.


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