James Ensor goes under the hammer


On 27 September Sothebys in London will be auctioning a series of works by the Belgian painter James Ensor. The sale, entitled James Ensor as printmaker is a lovely prelude to the exhibition on Ensor in London's Royal Academy of Arts: Intrigue: James Ensor by Luc Tuymans.

A total of 78 lots will go under the hammer at Sothebys. These include urban landscapes, seascapes, self-portraits together with fantastical and religious scenes. The lots have an estimated value of over 300,000 British pounds (around €357,000). The collection includes a number of Ensor's most coveted works, such as La Belgique au XIXe sciècle and Alimentation Doctrinaire.

The auction is being held in the run-up to the exhibition Intrigue: James Ensor by Luc Tuymans, which will take place in London's Royal Academy of Arts. This exhibition will run from 29 October 2016 until 29 January 2017.

The exhibition's curator is Luc Tuymans, who is not only Belgian but also a prestigious painter. During the preparation he worked in close collaboration with Antwerp's Royal Museum of Fine Arts, as the owner of the world's largest Ensor collection. Tuymans has never been shy to express his admiration for Ensor, and Spilliaert, Ostend's other famous painter. So we can look forward to seeing how he presents these venerable masters to their London audience, one that is not familiar with these Ostend masters.

Despite remaining in the Belgian seaside town of Ostend throughout his professional career James Ensor was extremely successful during his life and had considerable influence on the evolution of expressionism. Being both innovative and an outsider he rebelled against the conservative teachings in the Brussels academy in the late 19th century. Instead Ensor was attracted by avant-garde salons, where he was able to continue developing his radical creative vision. The theatrical, satirical and macabre are all unequalled in Ensor's work.

Indeed, his great imagination was encouraged from a very young age. Ensor spent much of his childhood amongst the fantastic treasures in his parents' souvenir and curiosity shop. Images of masks and carnivals are common features in his work, which is typically rich in lively colours, flamboyant costumes and an omnipresent feeling of drama and satire.