Born in Eupen, Belgium. Self-taught.
Neglected by his parents, Christian spends most of his childhood with two older aunts; they simulated his passion for drawing and painting from the early age of three.
He spent many hours copying the paintings on the walls of their house, whilst they were working in their toystore on the ground floor.
Christian’s parents separate.
Primary school in Spa, where he learns French and his artistic talent is discovered at an early age.
After school, and later after work, he paints many works in the attic; paintings that nobody knows of and nobody sees. Day by day, he withdraws more from the outside world and finds solace in alcohol. The chasm widens between him and his family. He is stricken with admiration when he sees a big painting by Paul Delvaux. He is determined to dedicate his life to painting.
Aunt Josephine passes away.
Aunt Johanna passes away.
He finally breaks with his family and leaves for Brussels, penniless and alone. This is the start of one of the darkest periods of his life. He writes songs and performs in bars and restaurants to earn a meager living. He lives in an attic in the Boterstraat, close to the Grand Place in Brussels.
Finds a job as handyman at the operetta theatre in the northern quarter of Brussels. He also restores canvases that are used on stage as scene decoration.
Meets Maurice Béjart and befriends some dancers.
Christian works on the canvases for the scene decoration for “Les ballets du 20 ième siècle”.
Meets Jacques Brel in the canteen of the Mint Theatre.
They often have breakfast together during the rehearsals of “L’homme de la Mancha”.
Is drafted for military services, but is disqualified shortly afterwards.
Silvain paints his first surreal paintings, influenced by the work of Paul Delvaux whom he considers his spiritual father, and with whom he will develop a close friendship many years later.
Meets Simone and Donatella who becomes his first wife in 1971. Meets mime artist Marcel Marceau of whom he paints a surreal portret. First individual exhibition at Bernard Van Berg’s who had a fur shop on the avenue Louise in Brussels. He bought Silvain’s first paintings to support him financially.
Many trips to Paris and Germany, together with friend and then agent Jacques Grootaert.
First exhibilition in Flanders, with success, at the Gallery Aymon in Ostend. Marries Donatella Bianchi.
Numerous exhibitions, both in Belgium and abroad.
Moves to Flanders. Makes graphics and sculptures during a short period. Makes about 50 etchings and sculpts a number of large nudes in white Carrara marble.
Meets Guy Pieters, who will be his agent for 30 years. During this time, he regularly meets up with many big names in the art scene at Guy Pieters. These contacts are at the origin of a fast evolution in his work. The evenings in Knokke-Le Zoute following art openings with Karel Appel, Christo, Jean Tinguely, Niki de Saint-Phalle, Arman, Corneille and many others remain memorable.
In the early 80s, a new artistic phase sets it. It is the era of the “façades”: at first photographically realistic, but soon covered with graffiti and tags. These art works are the predecessor with a 25year lead, of the “street art” which is so popular today.
Birth of his son Mathieu. Around 1987, the graffiti façades make room for very poetic paintings, inspired by drawings made by autistic children and mentally handicapped adults, whom he visits regularly in specialised institutions.
His adoptive father Alphonse Faymonville passes away.
From this time on, he breaks with Maria, his mother, whom he will never meet again.
Numerous exhibitions all over the world.
Many musea in Belgium and abroad purchase his work.
The Ludwig Museum in Germany dedicates an exhibition to his series of paintings “the prisoners”, with catalogue in 1988. 11 of Silvain’s paintings are purchased by the Ludwig Museum.
In the early years 2000, Jos Depypere becomes his new agent. As from 2002 Silvain makes paintings with one or more large figures in the middle, with black acryl paint, then white, later blue and then also in scarlet red ink. An imagined mother, a Mickey Mouse, a huge rabbit, an elephant. The background is filled with the most diverse objects, broken toys, aeroplanes, knives…
In between, short sentences, sometimes shocking, sometimes disillusioned poetry or words that keep coming back “mutti” “rien” “peur” … .
Until today, some thirty books and catalogues of Silvain’s work have been publised.
The Silvain Foundation was established in 1992 and owns 475 pieces, from childhood until today.
He has a special love for the work of Chagall, Alechinsky and his spiritual father Paul Delvaux. Silvain lives in Kluisbergen (Belgium) with his partner Liselot and works 10 to 12 hours a day, well aware that time will be too short to tell us everything...
With aunt Johanna in Eupen
Working with Paul Delvaux
in St.-Idesbald, 1989
Silvain sculptor, 1993
Talking to Paul Delvaux
With his son Mathieu in Cannes, 1986
Queen Paola visits his studio in Kluisbergen
Christian Silvain and Julie de Bleeckere
With Bernard Pras and Eric Liot
A day with children at the Silvain Foundation