Delmotte - Nude woman.jpg

The artist’s prolific output in painting is matched by his frenetic, even manic pace of graphic production. His drawings--rendered in diverse media, often whatever was to hand--show an artist who seems never to have been at rest, constantly sketching, observing, and inventing both natural and imaginary forms. Delmotte did not use drawing as an exercise to work out a particular subject or aesthetic question, claiming that he never made preparatory sketches for his paintings, at the risk of “petrifying” the idea behind it.[1] There appear to be no caches of drawings that relate to specific painted compositions. Rather the drawings served as a means to their own end; yet another material with which he could realize aspects of his visual idiom.

Typical of any formally trained artist, Delmotte made carefully studied anatomical drawings that retain a classicizing quality in their statuesque forms and reductive lines of shade and light. These nude studies follow an unsurprising trajectory throughout his career, from a more traditional academic approach akin to Italian Renaissance practices of creating illustory sense of depth, to reductive abstractions recalling the drawings of early modernism, similar to the work of Leger, Matisse, and Picasso. Unlike his paintings, in which he seems to constantly experiment with the possibility of the media, Delmotte’s figural studies focus on recording the basic elements of the subject: the fall of light, the use of line and shade to transform two dimensions into three. The solidity of the drawn female nudes’ bodies find a direct corollary in his paintings, where their forms exhibit a density of mass yet retain a sensual air in their contorted prone positions. Even the most labored drawing of a nude nevertheless makes clear this artist’s facility with the pen or chalk in his hand.

Nowhere is this ease with the pen more evident than in his whimsical ballpoint pen sketches, often found on the back of invitations and gallery opening notices, which practically burst with multivalent kinesis in their lively handling. A human figure reads at once like an architectural component, a two-dimensional graphic design, and an allegorical or stock character. Delmotte’s constant combination of categories makes these drawings absorbing and entertaining for the viewer, who is intrigued at their balance between serious subject matter and frivolous doodles. Similar elements and themes from his paintings appear these drawings as well: masks, statuesque figures, industrial tools and technological detritus, but these informal drawings also function as an arena for the creation of fantastical creatures with impossibly constructed bodies who are nevertheless full of personality and presence.

[1] “Autobiographie et pensées sur l’art par Marcel Delmotte,” in George 1969, 229.