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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.
"The mobility, the anxiety, and the wavering of his nature explain at once the feverish searches, the steps forward, the steps backward, the brusque advances and the sudden retreats, in a word all the changes and also all the unevenness of his art. After a light picture, he reverses to a dark picture; after a character sketch he begins an atmosphere drawing, after a completely delicate etching he engraves a copper plate as if with nails. He is turbulent and abrupt in many ways a composition; the continuous or symmetrical development of lines hardly worries him; he proceeds by blows; he astonishes more often than he charms. He shows clumsiness and he is far from banishing unruliness and chaos from his art. He is never able to stay still and is often even unable to stay in his seat."
Poet Émile Verhaeren, 1908, quoted by Anna Swinbourne in James Ensor. Featured image, also from James Ensor, is "At the Conservatory," 1902.
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Pub Date: 3/1/2006
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