31 January, 2010

James Ensor 1850-1949 Belgium

He didn’t enjoy comparisons to the Impressionists seeing his Expressionism as aloof, but thick slathers of beige sky framed seascapes that court the same distortion of line present in their work.

Canvases that mark the pinnacle of Ensor’s career: the macabre scenes of masked personages and skeletons represent an exaggerated reality of vanity and absurdity. They wore delirious expressions like the absinthe drunk of Lautrec and Van Gough’s canvases that radiate green and reminded me of the Grateful Dead’s album covers, all skulls and roses.

The masks, double edged, present one image when another lies underneath. In this incarnation his ego was protected from the criticism that wounded him. “I like these masks because they offended the public who received me so badly.”

I sympathised with his inability to take criticism. We are so quick to judge. Isn’t it enough to just have painted or written something for yourself?

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