James Ensor

Overview

James Ensor's painting of 1887, "The Temptation of St. Anthony," now in The Museum of Modern Art's collection, established the artist as one of the boldest painters of all his contemporaries. Ensor (1860-1949) was a major figure in the Belgian avant-garde of the late nineteenth century and an important precursor to the development of Expressionism in the early twentieth, yet his work is underappreciated in the United States, and far too little seen. This striking volume, published on the occasion of Ensor's major...
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Overview

James Ensor's painting of 1887, "The Temptation of St. Anthony," now in The Museum of Modern Art's collection, established the artist as one of the boldest painters of all his contemporaries. Ensor (1860-1949) was a major figure in the Belgian avant-garde of the late nineteenth century and an important precursor to the development of Expressionism in the early twentieth, yet his work is underappreciated in the United States, and far too little seen. This striking volume, published on the occasion of Ensor's major 2009 exhibition in New York, gives the artist the attention he so greatly deserves. It presents approximately 90 works, organized thematically, examining Ensor's Modernity, his innovative and allegorical approach to light, his prominent use of satire, his deep interest in carnival and performance and, finally, his own self-fashioning and use of masking, travesty and role-playing. Works in the full range of his media--painting, printing and drawing--are presented in an overlapping network of themes and images to produce a complete picture of this daring body of art. The most comprehensive volume on the artist available in English, this remarkable, scholarly volume reveals Ensor as a socially engaged and self-critical artist involved with the issues of his times and contemporary debates on the very nature of Modernism.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Published to accompany the first major Ensor exhibition in the United States in nearly a decade, this catalog by Swinbourne (assistant curator, dept. of painting & sculpture, MoMA) deals with a particularly productive period in the artist's life, 1880 to the mid-1890s, a time of transition from dark realism and impressionistic studies to brilliantly colored visionary art. During this decade, Ensor began to focus more and more on his drawings, many of which he referred to as "visions" or light studies; the next step was the production of etchings, in his view the media that would allow his work to survive far longer than painting or drawing. Although landscape and light continued to intrigue him, his fascination with masks and satire, the grotesque and the bizarre, became intense during this period, and many of the works in the exhibition deal with this theme. VERDICT Although interesting points are made, the featured essays tend to be turgid and repetitive. Still, this stands as a contribution to the literature because of its comprehensiveness and the opportunity to view many of the lesser-known works.—Paula Frosch, Metropolitan Museum of Art Lib., New York\
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780870707520
  • Publisher: The Museum of Modern Art
  • Publication date: 7/31/2009
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 8.80 (w) x 11.30 (h) x 1.10 (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.

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