Photo of Evelyne Axell in her home during an exhibition, fighting for the world of women stretchinf from Philadelphia to Brussels

Evelyne Axell/ Evelyne Axell née Devaux

Belgium 1935 - 1972

Pop Art

evelyne-axell.info/eng

Evelyne Axell
Evelyne Axell née Devaux
Male
Belgium
1935

Evelyne Axell was a Belgian Pop art author best known for her psychedelic and erotic painterly compositions of female nudes and self-portraits. Her pieces were usually painted on plexiglass that allowed the artist to achieve what she believed were the perfect stylistic characteristics, blending the hedonistic visuals with the Pop impulses of the 1960s. Interestingly, Axell’s first paintings were, much more classically, based on oil techniques – however, her art quickly evolved and she soon developed a groundbreaking signature technique of using transparent synthetic sheets from which she cut silhouettes of her voluptuous females and self-conscious heroines engaged in erotic poses and activities. Such a practice resulted in layered, low relief images of the figures imbued with an opalescent, almost dream-like quality that owned the immediacy and commonality of Pop art.

From 1964, Evelyne Axell was the new woman in the modern painting world and her works were a part of exhibitions in every modern museum between Philadelphia and Brussels
Evelyne Axell – The artist with her work Valentine in 1967 – Image via tate.org.uk

The Story of Evelyne Axell (1935 – 1972)

Evelyne Axell née Devaux was born on 16 August 1935 in Namur, Belgium, becoming a part of a traditional, middle-class Catholic family. Her father, André Devaux, was a relatively well-known craftsman in silverware and jewelry whilst her mother, Mariette Godu, came from a very modest family and was a homestay. Interestingly, at the age of two, Evelyne was declared The Province of Namur’s most beautiful baby – luckily for her, that beauty continued to be a defining feature of her life as the woman was growing up. After graduating from high school, she studied pottery at the Namur School of Art (1953). In 1954, she switched to drama school and quickly began a career as an actress and married the Belgian film director Jean Antoine. In 1959, she moved to Paris to pursue a more serious acting career – however, she found this job to be too trivial in real life scenarios and eventually opted to switch her career goals.[1]

After the museum scene realised how much Evelyne Axell's colorful work was worth, she was a among the most regularly featured women in Belgium
Evelyne Axell – Evelyne Axell at Broadway 1602 / Valentine – Images via amazonaws.com and pinterest.com

Taking a Turn Towards Painting

In 1964, Axell quit her relatively promising acting career so she could pursue painting. She enlisted Surrealist painter René Magritte, a family friend of her husband, to be her artistic mentor. After abandoning the technique of oil which served as an initial stepping stone, Axell’s early works started to use her unique aforementioned method and tackle deep changes occurring within an increasingly disputed, gendered, social order. Axell created her own style[2] of Pop art, becoming one of the first Belgian authors to experiment within this avant-garde idiom. At this time she started to use the androgynous name Axell professionally, in the hopes that she would be taken seriously as an artist despite her gender, youth, beauty and the explicit sexual nature of her work. With an artistic vocabulary that was only getting better and more complex, her life and career were unexpectedly cut short in a tragic car crash outside of Gent[3], Belgium, in 1972.

Relying on all the new visual tools of the 1960s, Evelyne Axell proved that her decision to leave acting in order to dedicate herself to painterly art was the right choice to make

The works of Evelyne Axell kept on finding a new home for decades before the exhibition scene realized how much this author contributed to the status of women in the museum world
Evelyne Axell – Self-portrait / La cible, 1970 – Images via natalieseroussi.com and wiki.art.org

Pivotal and Popular Despite All the Obstacles

After all was said and done, Evelyne Axell might not only be the most pivotal Belgian female representative of Pop art – she is probably the most important female Pop author outside of the United States and the British soil. However, as the case is with many modern female authors, she is often overlooked as her male contemporaries are often placed much closer to the spotlight. Her career’s biggest problem was not related to any creative, stylistic or visual issue – it was the time period in which she created her art, a time period that was marked by a conscious directive to make sure male painters are the ones getting the most, if not all of the public attention. Victims of such a policy, Evelyne Axell and her art have been pushed under a rug for the last half a century – fortunately, as the times flew into the more contemporary waters, the work of this artist is now finally appreciated for all its achievements and the name of Evelyne Axell is finally celebrated as being one of the finest Pop authors that did not work within the borders of the USA or the United Kingdom.

References:

  1. Antoine, J., Stages in a Life Cut Short. Biography of Evelyne Axell, Du viol d’Ingres au retour de Tarzan iac editions, 2006
  2. Decan, J., Evelyne Axell (1935-1972) A Belgian Surrealist Pop Artist?, Art Books International, 1999
  3. Stief, A., Axell, E., Evelyne Axell., Köln: Dumont, 2010

Featured image: Evelyne Axell – Photo of the artist – Image via mayorgallery.com
All images used for illustrative purposes only.

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2017The Beguiling Siren Is Thy CrestMuseum on the Vistula, Warsaw Group
2016Sous le soleil exactementGalerie Sophie Scheidecker, ParisGroup
2016Manifesta 11European Biennial of Contemporary Art, Amsterdam Group
2015Pop Impact : Women ArtistsMaison de la Culture Namur, Namur Group
2015International PopDallas Museum of Art, Dallas, TX Group
2015The EY Exhibition: The World Goes PopTate Modern, London Group
2015International PopWalker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN Group
20144 X 4Stephen Friedman Gallery, London Group
2014RE: PaintedSMAK Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, Ghent Group
2013Glam! The Performance Of StyleLentos Kunstmuseum Linz, Linz Group
2012Evelyne Axell: The Great Journey Into SpaceBroadway 1602, New York City, NY Solo
2011Evelyne Axell: AxellerationStädtisches Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach Solo
2011Pop ArtStädtisches Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach Solo
2011La terre est rondeKunstverein in Hamburg, Hamburg Solo
2011Modern ClassicsPatrick Derom Gallery, Brussels Group
2011Power Up! Female Pop ArtStädtische Galerie Bietigheim-Bissingen, Bietigheim-Bissingen Group
2011ThreatBroadway 1602, New York City, NY Group
2011Seductive Subversion: Women Pop Artists, 1958-1968Tufts University Art Gallery, Medford, MA Group
2010Evelyne Axell : Images contestatairesCentrum voor Hedendaagse kunst, Brussels Solo
2010POWER UP: Female Pop ArtMuseumsquartier, Vienna Group
2010Seductive Subversion: Women Pop Artists, 1958–1968Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York City, NY Group
2010Nouvel AccrochagePatrick Derom Gallery, Brussels Group
2010Seductive Subversion: Women Pop Artists, 1958-1968Sheldon Museum of Art, Lincoln, NE Group
2010H1N1 SurvivingContemporary by Golconda, Tel Aviv Group
2010Inaugural Group Show:Broadway 1602, New York City, NY Group
2009Axell’S Paradise and The Afterlife Of The Étant Donnés (2009)Broadway 1602, New York City, NY Solo
2009New AcquisitionsPatrick Derom Gallery, Brussels Group
2009Un apercu du pop art en WallonieCentre wallon d'art contemporain, Flémalle Group
2009Ingres et les modernesMusée Ingres, Montauban Group
2009Artists from the 60sThe Mayor Gallery, London Group
2008Evelyne AxellGalerie Natalie Seroussi, Paris Solo
2008New AcquisitionsPatrick Derom Gallery, Brussels Group
2007Pop Art! 1956-1968Scuderie del Quirinale, Rome Group
2006Evelyne AxellPatrick Derom Gallery, Brussels Solo
2005Evelyne Axell: From Pop Art to ParadiseThe Mayor Gallery, London Solo
2003Evelyne Axell ErotomobilesThe Mayor Gallery, London Solo
1999Evelyne Axell en de jaren ’60Museum voor Moderne Kunst, Oostende Solo
1979The sixties: Art in BelgiumSMAK Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, Ghent Group