The Village of the Mermaids


Friday, July 12, 2013

In 1942, the Surrealist painter Paul Delvaux painted a seaside fantasy scene called The Village of the Mermaids.  The foreground shows several women sitting soberly along a small village street; in the distance, along the beach, there’s a surprise. Judith Kampfner went into the vaults of the Art Institute of Chicago to see Delvaux’s painting and discuss its origin with curator Stephanie D’Alessandro.

(Originally aired: July 05, 2003)

Comments [5]

Scott from Columbus from Ohio

I have never forgotten this painting since first seeing it in Chicago. In the 90s it was a random day at the museum. Just killing time with art. This painting touched me at first glance. The pull of the mind up to the heavens and down the street has never left me. It was a truly moving moment I have and will never forget. I never remembered the name of the painting until I decided to look through the online museum gallery in search of this one painting today. I can't tell you how excited I am to reconnect with its thought provoking / out of body experience. One of my all time favorite paintings I've ever experienced in person. My next visit to Chicago will include my reconnection to this amazing work.

Nov. 29 2014 08:41 PM

Seeing the reproduction of the work here and on the AIC website makes me wish to see it in person. The painting is almost 4'by 4' and so much detail is lost in the flat rendering of our screens. I'm certain the mermaids on the beach would not be mistaken for rocks!

Aug. 23 2013 12:16 PM
Jessica from Jersey City

Yeah, I have to echo Terry's sentiments. I heard the story in the car and didn't know the painting at all. The piece was so interesting and everyone's descriptions were so detailed that I was eager to see the actual painting. I finally got around to coming here to look, and I can't believe the painting I am looking at is the one that was the basis of a twenty minute segment. I think of myself as somewhat knowledgeable about art, but in this case, I am confused. You can barely see the mermaids. If you hadn't told me they were mermaids I would have assumed they were rocks. There is nothing here to capture the imagination in my opinion. I am disappointed. Obviously other people who know more than I do think it has merit or you wouldn't have done such a lengthy segment on it, but I am mystified as to why.

Jul. 28 2013 11:37 AM
Andrew Periale from Strafford, NH

Yes, well ACTUAL poetry is a very "big tent," isn't it? Some like Charles Simic and some like Ogden Nash, while others prefer Shakespeare, Sharon Olds, or Basho. Delvaux was illustrating his dream and I derive sufficient enjoyment from the work, knowing its wellspring, without needing to compare it to Woodbury's "Tidal Rocks in Ogunquit" or Coolidge's "Dogs Playing Poker."

Jul. 15 2013 09:59 PM
Terry McKenna from Dover NJ

I thought I knew this painting, but when I heard the rapturous description, I looked again. Sorry, its dull, devoid of visual poetry.

This otherwise good show lacks anyone with a decent eye.

Jul. 14 2013 12:25 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.