“During the war, we lived in Genval.
My father owned a house beside the lake. We spent our days fishing, with my brother. We used to go out on an old boat, although we couldn’t swim.
When our school wasn’t closed because of the war, we learned French. My father explained the complicated words to us. The word ‘rhododendron’, for example. “I’ll show you”, he said. So he drove us out to La Hulpe. Standing in front of a magnificent bush of pink and white flowers, he said, “This is the garden of a thousand rhododendrons. They protect the Château de La Hulpe”. We couldn’t go in because it wasn’t open to the public. How distant and inaccessible it seemed there on its hill. It was surrounded by seemingly endless grounds. It was a place we dreamed about. The garden of a thousand rhododendrons and its distant château became the eighth wonder of the world for us during our childhood.
And the years went by. I became an artist. My career took me to France. The museums of the world exhibited my works to large numbers of people. I travelled the world.
One day in 1970, I was invited to meet Paul Delvaux. The meeting took place at the Château de La Hulpe. It was wonderful to relive a childhood memory after so many years and to finally discover this place that I remembered so fondly. And to find an unknown painting by Magritte on the wall. He’d painted an ordinary morning in the countryside on Earth. And in the sky, there was the Earth, like something quite normal. Something very ordinary had become extraordinary.
Finding this unknown Magritte masterpiece and being on the terrace in the company of Paul Delvaux made it a truly magical place for me. We enjoyed the evening so much that we were invited to stay the night there.
The next day, I spent the morning wandering around the park. It was one of the most beautiful mornings of my life. The classicism, sense of measure and harmony of the place made a deep impression on me. The grounds and paths must have struck a mysterious chord with me. When we left, we took the path which leads to the park entrance. It took me right back to my childhood.
From that moment on, the place became part of my life.