This complete, detailed biography of the Belgian artist James Ensor provides an extensively documented chronology, drawing on both the painter’s letters and articles in the contemporary press. Magnificently illustrated with a broad selection of his masterpieces, it offers a guided tour through Ensor’s work, revealing his development as an artist.
Our knowledge of Ensor’s life is constantly being updated by the work of Xavier Tricot, author of this biography, and the Ensor Advisory Committee. New information has recently been discovered in the unpublished correspondence. Among other things, we learn that early in 1885, Ensor’s father was attacked and seriously injured by two young men in an Ostend café, an incident that left indelible traces in the painter’s mind. Later, in Germany in 1892, Ensor described buying around a hundred masks, which he hung in his studio to striking effect. We also learn that he enjoyed clowning around with the sons of his friends Ernest and Mariette Rousseau, in Brussels, and drew on photographs of their games and disguises for his art.
Ensor had a certain talent as a writer. In a letter from 1888 to Ernest Rousseau Jr., he described a vision or fantastical dream that conveys the exuberant creativity of his mind.
Some of the factual information provided in this biography, including titles of the works, relates to the authoritative inventory of Ensor’s work in the catalogue raisonné published by Mercatorfonds in 2009.
The opening of the painter’s Ostend house to the public, scheduled for 2020, will undoubtedly serve to enhance interest in his highly unusual art. Pondering the variety and complexity of Ensor’s work, Tricot observes, ‘Having studied Ensor’s art and mind for over thirty years, I am still surprised by the unbelievable power of imagination and stylistic prowess of one of our greatest modern painters.’
Art historian, writer and painter Xavier Tricot (b. Ostend, 1955) is the author of the catalogue raisonné of James Ensor’s paintings, published by Mercatorfonds in 2009. He is also the author of catalogues raisonnés of prints by Léon Spilliaert and Fernand Khnopff, and has curated several exhibitions (Ensor, Spilliaert, Louise Bourgeois) in Belgium and elsewhere.