Sunday, October 15, 2006
"Death Chasing a Flock of Mortals"
etching and drypoint
James Ensor (1860-1949) Lifetime achivement of 133 etchings.
There was an interesting article in recent Art on Paper magazine about Tom Firmans 200 piece collection of Ensor prints. Tom first saw Ensors famous painting "Christ's entry into Brussels in 1889 and became thoroughly impressed by the artist. Later in New York he bought his first prints, by Gabor Peterdi who taught at Yale and was the author of "Great Prints of the World" Through Peterdi , Firman learned that prints provide an economical means to collect the work of as many of the worlds greatest artists. At first Firman was attracted to the fantasical qualities of Ensors etchings, but later began to appreciate Ensors keen sense of draftsmanship. His favorite print is a hand colored version of "Skeletons Trying to Warm Themselves". Ensor used this print to wrap the etching plate when it was not in use. Firman owns five etchings from Ensor's 1904 album "The Seven Deadly Sins". I remember that "Whipping Boy" did the seven deadly sins series as an undergrad.
Depraivity and corruption are timeless and for Ensor, humor provided the best means to face the dark side of human condition. It was this intensely pessimistic if ultimately realistic world view, expressed in a series of astonishing paintings and etchings, which made Ensor a pariah during his productive years as an artist, rejected not only by the right-thinking Flemish burghers of his native Belgium, but also by the members of Les Vingt, the avant garde group of painters of which he, himself, was founder and leading light.