New Bozar exhibition presents lesser-known aspects of James Ensor's career

James Ensor is best known as one of the most important Belgian painters. But he was also a writer of art criticism and speeches, a music lover and a composer. The exhibition James Ensor: Maestro, which opens on Thursday at Bozar in Brussels, highlights these lesser-known aspects of the painter, with more than 150 works on display.

The exhibition opens with Christ's Entry into Brussels in 1889' Not the original, which is too fragile to leave the J.P. Getty Museum in Los Angeles, but a 2008 tapestry depicting the painting. This monumental work shows Ensor as he is best known: masks, skeletons and grotesque figures, painted in bright colours.

Besides the tapestry, 30 oil paintings, 150 works on paper and 40 documents such as manuscripts and scores are on display. For example, Ensor wrote and composed an entire ballet, called La Gamme d'amour. The exhibition also sheds light on his early works, with realist and impressionist tendencies, as well as his depiction of Christ, with whom he seemed to identify.

Close to Brussels

Though Ensor is most associated with his home town of Ostend, Brussels was close to his heart. He studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts and exhibited there with the artists' group Les XX. In 1929, a retrospective of his work was held at Bozar, with 337 oil paintings, 325 works on paper and 135 prints, including The Entry of Christ into Brussels in 1889. Visitors can see archive footage of this exhibition and listen to a speech Ensor gave at the time in Bozar.

James Ensor: Maestro is part of the Year of Ensor, in which Flemish museums are commemorating the 75th anniversary of the artist's death in 2024. In addition to Brussels, exhibitions will take place in Ostend, where he lived for most of his life, and Antwerp.


#FlandersNewsService | Bozar in Brussels. © BELGA PHOTO HATIM KAGHAT

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