James Ensor

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9783775717038: James Ensor
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Few artists of the late nineteenth century produced an oeuvre more bizarre, ironic, profound and rich in interpretive possibilities than the Belgian painter James Ensor. Ensor lived from 1860 until 1949, and has enjoyed newfound fame since 1994 as the subject of the They Might Be Giants song "Meet James Ensor." His unusual work challenged standards of taste and technique by mingling the influence of his Belgian forbears, Bosch and Breugel, with a bright, loosely brushed impressionist style. Ensor offered unmistakable symbols of the absurdity of existence--particularly in portraying the tourists who flooded his native Ostend on their vacations, whom he caricatured mercilessly as clowns and skeletons, or concealed behind brightly colored carnival masks. His painting influenced both German Expressionists and French Surrealists. When seen in the light of new trends towards the grotesque and comic in contemporary painting, his work obtains new currency. James Ensor includes some eighty masterpieces on canvas and sixty works on paper from international museums and private collections, with key pieces from each of his creative periods. Particular attention is paid to his late work, long neglected by scholarship, in order to prepare the ground for a re-evaluation.

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About the Author:

James Ensor grew up in the seaside town of Ostend, Belgium, where he returned after studying at the AcadEmie de Bruxelles, and worked for the rest of his life. Ensor painted in a studio that had once been his aunt and uncleis shell and souvenir shop, and although he shut its doors to the public, he left some of the merchandise as it was. As a leading member of the avant-garde group Les XX (The Twenty) he shared their harsh critical reception, but after Les XX disbanded, he continued to work and eventually won wide acclaim. By the time of his death in 1949 he had been made a baron, and his home is now the Ensor House museum.

Review:

The MoMA survey... is an artist's-artist show. It will appeal to anyone trying to negotiate an insider-outsider perch, anyone obsessed by violence and light, anyone who knows that loony is relative. --Holland Cotter, The New York Times, June 26, 2009

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