This interviews is from the Independent for 29 January 1994. In a series titled "Where did you get that?", JG Ballard discusses his Delvaux paintings:
Where did you get that?
JG Ballard on his personalised Surrealist paintings
I've always been a great admirer of the Belgium surrealist Paul Delvaux, and about six or seven years ago, thanks to Empire of the Sun [the film of Ballard's novel], I had a little spare cash. My first thought was to buy a Delvaux, but I discovered, sadly, that his prices had moved into the stratosphere. Anything up to a million pounds each.
So it then occurred to me that, rather than try to buy an existing Delvaux, what I would do was to pay an artist to reconstruct two Delvaux paintings which were destroyed during the Second World War, from the black-and-white photographs that exist of them. And that I did.
I heard of an American artist, Brigid Marlin, and I asked her, "Would you be prepared to accept a commission to paint these, to reconstruct these lost paintings?" She agreed, and they're now my proudest possession.
The originals of the two paintings were destroyed in London during the Blitz in 1940. Both were painted in 1936, and had obviously been brought to London by a British collector. Brigid, with a little interference from myself, had to choose the right colours for the paintings. Fortunately, Delvaux uses a limited palette - for instance, his buxom women tend to wear burgundy dresses - and we picked colours consonant with the colours in existing Delvaux paintings. So I think we've got it just about right.
One of the paintings is called The Violation and the other is called The Mirror. The Violation, I think, is my favourite. Its sort of a dream landscape populated by naked, or half-naked, women, who are beckoning towards the viewer, inviting him into their magical domain. Sitting in front of this painting, I feel that I am about to accept their invitation. I think that, in a way, I've already entered the painting and gone to live with these magnificent women.
Brigid Marlin was a very religious woman, and I think she thoroughly disapproved of the Surrealists and disapproved of my interest in them. I think she thought it was bad for my soul. So she offered to paint for me an exact copy of Leonardo da Vinci's Annunciation, which exists, of course, in the Uffizi art gallery in Florence. And Brigid said to me, "You could put it in your bedroom, Jim. You know, the first thing you see in the morning when you wake up."
I was tempted. Then, a few years ago, I visited Florence and went to see the Annunciation. I found that the painting is about nine feet long by four feet deep. I thought, well, it might be a bit intimidating.
I've thought of having one or two more Delvauxs - lost Delvauxs - because I think it's a nice idea to bring back to life paintings that have been destroyed. I would never sell my two Delvauxs, they're much too precious. They're probably more precious to me than a real Delvaux would be. In fact, I'm the sort of secondary creator of them. I mean, I almost feel that I painted them.