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 that of 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...
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2005 Cloth New in Fine Condition jacket 332 pp., 310 illustrations 240 in color. Published on the occasion of the exhibition from Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt December 17, ... 2005-March 19, 2005. Dustjacket is protected with a mylar cover. Read more Show Less

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Overview

Few artists of the late nineteenth century produced an oeuvre more bizarre, ironic, profound, and rich in interpretive possibilities than that of 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, it 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 the artist’s late work, long neglected by scholarship, in order to prepare the ground for a reevaluation.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9783775717038
  • Publisher: Hatje Cantz Verlag GmbH & Co KG
  • Publication date: 3/1/2006
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 9.10 (w) x 10.80 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet 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.

"Max Hollein is the director of the Schirn Kunstahalle, Germany, and was the United States Commissioner to the 7th Venice Architecture Biennale."

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Table of Contents

James Ensor seen as a whole - an attempt at a resume 17
A portrait of the artist as a skeleton 81
"You words without rhyme and reason, I love you, I love you" : the deregulated language of James Ensor 149
Ensor and no end-Ensor's painting from a postmodernist perspective 231
Biography 311
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  • Posted January 22, 2009

    arrangement of art works and perceptive essays explore new dimensions of this fascinating modern artist

    Ensor's sense of the macabre equals Goya's in some of his late etchings. Except where Goya's sense ended in tragedy, Ensor's ends in emptiness. Ensor usually uses a blurry style of painting and pictured persons, objects, and scenes imprecisely, somewhat blurred--as if he found it difficult to face and did not want to convey unadulterated his ultimate thoughts. And like Goya too, Ensor's paintings, macabre and those closer to verisimilitude, are in some cases trenchant, bitter critiques of contemporary events and political situations. Goya's late etchings are filled with known references, even when these are mythological figures whereas Ensor's are filled with exotic, carnivalesque, imagery and imaginative scenes--as his 'Masks Watching a Negro Minstrel' where are group of brightly-colored masks to the right look toward a black minstrel holding a pole with a bird perched at one end and as if this weren't strange enough, in the lower left foreground is a tortoise. The composition--bringing to mind one of Joseph's Cornell's collages in a wood box or frame--is too heterogeneous for symbolism. The frequency of masks in Ensor's paintings and his sympathy with Poe as seen in his painting 'Hop Frog's Revenge' (one of Poe's stories is titled 'Hop Frog') are clues to the sources of his art and the terrain traveled by his imagination. The nearly 80 paintings and more than 100 works on paper are a complete record of the items at the Ensor exhibition in Frankfurt ending in March 2006. Four lengthy essays by art experts--one with the title 'A Portrait of the Artist as a Skeleton'--with respective art works shed light into the intriguing, often unnerving byways explored by this inimitable artist.

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