Museum Exhibition Catalogues, Monographs, Artist's Projects, Curatorial Writings and Essays
"A paintbrush is like a brain. But the knife is the dumb instrument of the laborer, it is unconscious, irresponsible, mechanical. It directs the hand, it collaborates with chance, even handled by a virtuoso, it keeps its inborn flaw, which is to turn everything it touches into matter. The knife invented the nearly-good-enough painting. The masons of art have found it convenient to perform their work with a trowel: it has simplified things, and they have been able to go without painting or drawing. It has been an enormous relief for lazy artists, who are numerous." James Ensor, quoted by Michel Draguet in James Ensor.
Published by Royal Academy Publications. Text by Luc Tuymans, Adrian Locke, Xavier Tricot, Herwig Todts, Gerrit Vermeiren.
James Ensor (1860–1949) produced some of the most unusual paintings of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Marked by psychological complexity, contradictions, and sheer eccentricity, his works—featuring such bizarre subject matter as dressed-up skeletons and macabre carnival masks—have continued to baffle and intrigue in equal measure. Ensor was born in Ostend, Belgium, and despite his success barely left his home town during his lifetime; his family’s curio shop, which was filled with exotic objects including parrots, a monkey, and masks from around the world, surely influenced the imagery of his mature work. In this volume, published to accompany a major exhibition, essays explore Ensor’s life and legacy, while leading contemporary artist Luc Tuymans comments on his selection of Ensor’s works, offering a distinctive view of Ensor, one only another artist can provide.
From the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp and Swiss Collections
Published by Hatje Cantz. Edited by Anne-Birgitte Fonsmark, Nina Zimmer. Text by Herwig Todts, Nina Zimmer.
Phantoms, skulls, skeletons and other macabre figures populate the paintings, drawings and prints of James Ensor. His works are bizarre, ironic, occasionally belligerent and provocative, but always buoyed by a keen sense of humor, and his nightmarish motifs reveal the absurd and grotesque about everyday life. Ensor’s interests were wide-ranging; he was as enthusiastic about Rembrandt’s prints as he was about the Belgian Carnival festival and Japanese masks. In turn, early twentieth-century artists such as Alfred Kubin, Paul Klee and the German Expressionists Emil Nolde and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner were inspired by his creative power and radical rejection of traditional European ideals of beauty. This volume presents nearly 60 paintings and an equal number of drawings, which are published here for the first time. James Ensor (1860–1949) was born in Brussels where he studied at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts. He first exhibited his work in 1881, and received his first solo exhibition four years later. Despite initial attacks in the press, Ensor quickly found favor in his native Belgium. By 1920 he was the subject of major exhibitions; in 1929 he was named a baron by King Albert; and in 1933 he was awarded the Légion d’honneur. Ensor rarely left Belgium, and endeared himself to the people of Ostend, where he spent most of his life, as a familiar figure about town.
Coinciding with renewed interest in James Ensor, this catalogue raisonné comes as an essential and definitive volume for Ensor buffs and all serious libraries of modern art. A legend in his own lifetime, Ensor (1860-1949) was--alongside Vincent van Gogh and Edvard Munch--a fearless independent whose work led directly to the development of German Expressionism and French Surrealism. Ensor achieved fame as the "painter of masks," and for his bizarre still lifes and grotesque carnival scenes, in harsh, contrasting, brilliant colors, evolving out of the traditional Flemish dance of death. Now, the reader can explore the Belgian painter's oeuvre thoroughly, in this opulently illustrated, full-color, slipcased catalogue raisonné. A comprehensive illustrated chronology offers additional details about the artist's life and work, and forms an integral part of this splendid, highly valuable contribution to art historical research, ensuring the legacy of a great artist who continues to inspire contemporary art.
Published by The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Edited by Anna Swinbourne. Text by Anna Swinbourne, Susan Canning, Michel Draguet, Robert Hoozee, Laurence Madeline, Jane Panetta, Herwig Todts.
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.
Published by Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Text by Theresa Papanikolas, Kevin Salatino.
A sharp send-up of authoritarian hubris--in which bloated, self-satisfied, bare-bottomed public officials excrete a foul diet literally to be swallowed by the masses--the etching "Doctrinal Nourishment" (1889/95) is one of Belgian artist James Ensor's most politically scathing works. Through a close reading of this print in its political context, curator Theresa Papanikolas traces how Ensor's youthful immersion in Belgian anarchist circles led him to develop violent and grotesque imagery through which he hoped to expose the incompetence of unchecked authority and indict a society in crisis. This well-illustrated volume also puts Ensor's work into art-historical context by juxtaposing examples of French Romanticism, German Expressionism and Dada by a variety of artists, including Honoré Daumier, Félicien Rops, George Grosz and Otto Dix.
Published by Hatje Cantz Publishers. Edited by Max Hollein and Ingrid Pfeiffer. Essays by Joachim Heusinger von Waldegg, Rudolf Schmitz and Xavier Tricot.
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.