Evelyne Axell

Evelyne Axell was a renowned Belgian 60’s pop artist and pioneer of feminism in the art world. Her perspective was unique in that she defended women without being opposed to men — fueled by her early career in TV & film where she had grown tired of objectification.

As the only student of surrealist painter René Magritte, Axell began her career working in the medium of oil painting; later establishing her signature technique of using auto-enamel on plexiglas. Many of her pieces are self-portraits which communicate the internal struggle she was facing amidst the civil rights movement.

In 1969 she became the first woman artist to win the “Young Belgian Painter Award”. In 1972, Axell was on the way back from an exhibition when she lost her life in a tragic car accident at the young age of 37, but her work continues to take on new lives. Axell’s work has been strongly embraced by young people around the world who see her as a member of their generation. Her iconic painting “Ice Cream 1” graces the cover of Lucius’ debut album Wildewoman, and with the gracious support of Axell’s son, Philippe, that modern connection now extends to other pieces in Axell’s collection. Learn more at https://evelyne-axell.inf

Evelyne Axell

“Le mur du son” (The sound barrier), 1966, Oil on Canvas, 200 x 200 cm


Le mur du son - (c)1966

Here, Axell she did a first version that she changed at a later stage. In the first version you can see a tooth but she removed it later.

Evelyne Axell Side by Side

The open mouth of the woman is a powerful symbol of expression and liberation. It can be seen as a defiance against the societal expectation for women to be seen and not heard, a literal and figurative breaking of silence. On a personal level, the painting reflects Axell's own experiences and struggles as a woman artist in a male-dominated field, shouting to be heard and acknowledged.

Turn it Around / “Permis dans les 2 sens” (Licensed in both ways), 1965, Oil on canvas, 120 x 120 cm


RGB Permis dans les 2 sens — Turn it Around

This work is rich with symbolic meaning and visual intrigue, as reflects Axell's distinctive approach to exploring themes of identity, freedom, and societal norms. The meticulous detail of the eye invites the viewer to consider the subjectivity of perception and the complexities of understanding oneself and others. 

The depiction of a woman's hands removing a tight from her leg in two different directions (downwards on the left and upwards on the right) is particularly evocative. This symbolizes the constraints placed upon individuals — especially women — by societal norms and the acts of conforming to or resisting those expectations. This work was part of her first exhibition outside Belgium at the Schwarz Gallery in Milan, Italy, in 1967. The gallery director, Arturo Schwarz, loved it so much that he bought it for his personal collection.

Go Home / “La prisonnière” (the prisoner) 1968, Enamel on Clartex on aluminum foil. Frame in aluminum. 65.5 x 47 cm


RGB La prisonnière — Go Home - side by side

This work is the only one where she used an aluminum frame. It is a self-portrait from a photo taken in 1968 in the garden. On the photo you can see pencil marks used to prepare the work.

At the time her husband, Jean Antoine, was always away filming around the world and she felt she was like a prisoner staying alone at home and working on her paintings. The colored stripes are typical of her work (see “Fossile”).

Hey, Doreen / “La fille du désert” (The girl from the desert), 1970, Oil on canvas, 80 x 120 cm


RGB La fille du désert — Hey, Doreen

There is quite a story for this work. In fact, it’s the only “aggressive” painting she ever made.

The reason is quite simple: jealousy and fear.

In 1966, Axell’s husband, Jean Antoine, made a documentary film on the young Israeli peace activist and writer Yael Dayan — depicted here. She was the daughter of Moshe Dayan, an Israeli military leader and politician, hero of the 1967 Six Day war. Moshe Dayan had lost an eye in 1941 and was compelled to adopt the black eye patch that became his trademark. 

Yael Dayan

The painting is inspired by the footage Jean Antoine had taken of Dayan in the Israeli desert.

Jean Antoine

Yael Dayan is presented as a full-body nude, wearing an eye patch like her father. She is challenged by another female figure appearing in a target — dressed in a trench coat like in a spy movie and pointing a gun.

The second target, with a big red circle in its center, is placed on Dayan’s heart. After Axell discovered her husband had been having an affair with Dayan while shooting the documentary, she later wrote to her husband: “Do not sleep with girls too sensational intellectually. It scares me. I wouldn’t want for a second Dayan”.

Tempest /  “La Poupée” (The doll), 1964, Pencil, collage, and Watercolor on steinbach paper, 54.8 x 73cm 


La poupée — Tempest

Until We Get There / “L'essuie-glace” (The wiper), 1964 Pencil and watercolor on Steinbach paper, 54.9 x 72.9cm


L-essuie-glace (The wiper) — Until We Get There

These works had never been shown before 2019 as they were hidden by Jean Antoine and rediscovered after his death. They allude to her future series of works, “Erotomobiles”. The car, especially during the 1960s and 70s, was often perceived as a "macho" object—a symbol of male power, freedom, and sexuality. It was not just a mode of transportation but a statement of personal identity, status, and virility. The automobile industry itself heavily marketed cars as symbols of masculine achievement and allure, often objectifying women as accessories to these machines in advertisements, thus reinforcing gender stereotypes and the male gaze. 

In the "Erotomobiles" series, Axell plays with these conventions by juxtaposing the erotic and the mechanical, thereby challenging the car's macho symbolism. She subverts the traditional male perspective by imbuing cars with feminine and erotic qualities, thus questioning the societal norms that define what is considered masculine or feminine. Her work often features women in control of or merging with these machines, suggesting a form of empowerment and a reclamation of space within a male-dominated culture.

Nothing Ordinary / “Paysage”, 1971, Enamel on Plexiglas and Formica, 164 x 131cm


RGB Paysage — Nothing Ordinary

Evelyne Axell's "Paysage" is a powerful exploration of female sexuality and its connection to nature. The green elements symbolize nature and life, while the black sky introduces a dramatic and somewhat ominous tone. The painting captures a moment of solitary sensuality, creating a paradoxical feeling of both loneliness and intimate pleasure. There is a sense of isolation, as she is the sole human figure in the scene, but also a sense of intimate joy and self-fulfillment. This fusion of the body with the landscape can be interpreted as a celebration of female sexuality and its intrinsic link to the natural world.

Two of Us on the Run / “L'entretien” (The interview), 1966, Oil on canvas and cut panels, 194.5 x 196 cm


RGB L-entretien — Two of Us on the Run

This painting is typical of her search for a “twin” sister or “double” as can be seen in other works like “Erotomobile” or “Les DS”. In many works there are two female figures but they are both self-portraits. The duplication of female figures, particularly in self-portraiture, can be a powerful statement on female autonomy and solidarity. It suggests the strength found in unity and the shared experiences of women. This motif can also challenge the traditional portrayal of women in art as singular objects of desire, instead presenting them as subjects with agency, complexity, and depth.

Don’t Just Sit There / “Fossile”, 1969, Enamel on Formica on plywood, 60 x 40 cm


RGB Fossile — Don-t Just Sit There

Today the motif of the rainbow flag is politically associated primarily with the LGBTQ+ movement, but in 1969, it represented the “Rainbow Coalition''. The organization was founded as a multicultural movement by Fred Hampton of the Black Panther Party. Axell was in political alliance to these new social movements.

Framing her female nudes with the rainbow symbol carried the message into a feminist agenda anticipating the central claim of the second-generation feminists. The colored stripes are found in many of Axell’s works.

“La conductrice et son double: Les DS", 1965, oil on canvas, 102 x 121 cm


La Conductrice et son double Les DS

This piece is part of Axell’s most well-known series, “Erotomobiles”, which are erotic depictions of female figures in cars. The nude female figures are self-portraits, and the two circular figures in front represent steering wheels. It was painted in a surrealist style (as taught to her by surrealist artist René Magritte) where the painting explores the motive of female twin — mirroring the duality of Lucius’ lead singers Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig.

Monsters / “Portrait fragmenté” (Fragmented Portrait), 1965, Oil on Canvas, 42 x 33cm


RGB Portrait fragmente — Monsters

The fragmentation is an effect of a vertical kaleidoscope, which appears in several of Axell’s works. The image itself seems to reflect on Axell’s former role as an actress and TV presenter, and the deep split in her self-perception between the demands of industry’s standardization of female beauty and the real-life women behind the public image. “Portrait fragmenté” is part of Axell’s feminist pop art collection.

“Auto-stop”, 1965, Oil on canvas, 97 x 146 cm


Evelyn Axell

In “Auto-stop", the woman on the road is inspired by a 17th century painting by Diego Velázquez “The Toilet of Venus”.

The Toilet of Venus

In fact, the estate discovered that Axell had once done another scene behind her figure which was quite different.

Originally, there was a car driving toward the woman with the headlights on. The headlight on the right of the painting was represented by concentric circles (a bit like in “La conductrice et son double: Le DS") with an eye in the center (similar to the eye in "Permis dans les Deux Sens"). On the front hood of the car there was the number “59”. The estate has not yet uncovered what it refers to, but the leading hypothesis is that it might have referred to Route 59 going from Canada to Mexico.

Only the woman’s body is original. The road and the sky were overpainted at a later stage.

Example 1Example 2

Genevieve / “Rétrovision”, 1964, Oil on canvas, 101 x 121 cm


RGB Rétrovision — Genevieve

"Rétrovision" presents a compelling image of a woman's eyes seen in a rearview mirror, embodying multiple layers of symbolism that reflect Axell's interest in themes of visibility, identity, and the gaze. 

This work, like much of her oeuvre, can be interpreted through the lens of feminist theory and the sociocultural context of the 1960s. In traditional art and culture, women have often been the object of the male gaze — observed rather than being the observers. By focusing on the woman's eyes in the rearview mirror, Axell reverses this dynamic, suggesting that the woman is the one observing — possessing agency and control over how she sees the world and is seen by it. This inversion challenges conventional roles and invites viewers to reconsider their perspectives on female visibility and subjectivity. Rétrovision is part of the “Erotomobiles” series.

"Ice Cream 1", 1964, oil on canvas, 95.3 x 69.9 cm

LISTEN WILDEWOMAN (2013) by Lucius

Wildewoman Ice Cream

"This bright, blissful painting certainly exudes a delicious ecstasy with its dizzying monochrome blocks of green, yellow, and blue shapes spiralling throughout the background. The fire red hair of the figure contrasts with the black and white brush-strokes that comprise the face. Through both a figurative and abstract approach, the face acts like a photograph collaged on top of the competing background shapes. The psychedelic shapes swirl around the face, privileging the emotive and individualistic quality of the woman featured in the painting. Her tongue shamelessly sticks out to lick up the drips of what looks like mint and strawberry ice cream. In Ice Cream, the figure’s eyes look down, sealed shut to reject a male gaze. Entirely focused on the task at hand, the woman remains unconcerned with the viewer. Axell presents a subject that refuses to pleasure the viewer and occupies a space outside the mediation of the male gaze. Unadorned and unapologetic, the woman takes pleasure in her own actions." — Camille Erickson in Walkerart Blog