James 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. In both respects he has influenced generations of later artists. This exhibition presents approximately 120 works, examining Ensor’s contribution to modernity, his innovative and allegorical use of light, his prominent use of satire, his deep interest in carnival and performance, and his own self-fashioning and use of masking, travesty, and role-playing. Examples of Ensor’s paintings, prints, and drawings are installed in an overlapping network of themes and images to produce a complete picture of this daring, experiential body of work. Ultimately, this exhibition presents James Ensor as a socially engaged and self-critical artist involved with the issues of his times and with contemporary debates on the very nature of modernism. The exhibition, which is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, will travel to the Musée d’Orsay, Paris, October 2009–February 2010.
Organized by Anna Swinbourne, Assistant Curator, Department of Painting and Sculpture.