A childhood memory

The Castle of La Hulpe, for me, is the name of a magical place which brings to mind an enchanted park. It all started with a childhood memory.
During the war we lived at the Genval lakeside. My father owned a house by the side of the lake. My brother and I passed our days fishing. We took off on a boat without being able to swim. A couple of times we nearly drowned. When school wasn’t closed due to the war we studied French. My father explained us difficult words like the word ‘rhododendon’. “I’ll show you”, my father said. We took off by car and headed for La Hulpe. In front of a marvellous pink and white flowered hedge he said to us: “This is the garden with the thousand rhododendrons. They protect the castle of La Hulpe.” We couldn’t enter the estate, because it wasn’t open for public. The castle seemed so far and inaccessible: on top of the hill, surrounded by an unbounded park. We dreamed of it. The garden with the thousand rhododendrons and its distant castle became the eighth world wonder of our childhood.La Hulpe


And life went on. I drew. My journey continued to France. Museums around the world showed my images to an enormous amount of people. I discovered the planet. One day in 1970 they invited me to meet Paul Delvaux. The encounter took place in the Castle of La Hulpe. Visiting this childhood memory after so many years, discovering at last this unforgettable place, discovering on top of that an unknown painting by René Magritte which was hanging on the wall. He had painted an ordinary morning on the countryside, the ground in the sky as if it was a normal presence. The ordinary of all things become extraordinary. Magritte’s unknown masterpiece and the presence of Paul Delvaux gave the place something magical. We liked it so much that they invited us to sleep over.

The next morning getting lost in the park was one of the most beautiful moments of my life. The classicism, the sense of measure, the harmony of the place touched my heart. The spaces and the pathways had found in me a mysterious echo. We left the park taking the long path leading to the main entry. It took me right back to my childhood.

Jean-Michel Folon