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The Awakening of the Forest

Forest filled with dozens of mostly nude women and men.
© 2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SABAM, Brussels

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  • Forest filled with dozens of mostly nude women and men.




Paul Delvaux
Belgian, 1897–1994

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.


On View, Gallery 396


Modern Art


Paul Delvaux


The Awakening of the Forest


Belgium (Artist's nationality:)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.



Oil on canvas




170.2 × 225.4 cm (67 × 88 3/4 in.)

Credit Line

Joseph Winterbotham Collection

Reference Number



© 2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SABAM, Brussels

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.


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