Meet James Ensor, Belgium’s Famous Painter, at New York’s Moma

Lynne Kiesling

The Museum of Modern Art is hosting an exhibition of James Ensor’s work. Ensor was a late 19th-early 20th century Belgian painter, and the best word I can think of to describe his work is … eclectic. From the NYT review of the exhibition:

He was an aggrieved traditionalist with a pop-culture itch, equally entertained by Rubens and tabloid cartoons. He was a sophisticated artist who helped shape early Modernism, not in a Paris studio but in an attic room over a novelty shop in a resort town on the North Sea. …

He’s hard to pin down. Gothic fantasist, political satirist, religious visionary: one minute he’s doing biblical scenes, the next the equivalent of biker tattoos, in a style that veers between crude and dainty.

I’ve only seen some of his work, I think at the art museum in Hamburg Columbus, Ohio. Definitely worth a look if you are going to be in New York.

Of course, those of you who know me know that this post is nothing more than a thin veneer over an excuse to link to the outstanding They Might Be Giants song, “Meet James Ensor”:

By the way, note the way-sweet use of the brushes on the snare drum to hold the rhythm together. Lovely accompaniment to the voices, guitar, and accordion (*love* the accordion!).

3 thoughts on “Meet James Ensor, Belgium’s Famous Painter, at New York’s Moma

  1. Funny that as soon as I read the title to this post, I started singing that song and knew you were a TMBG fan.

  2. Thanks for this! Very interesting. I wonder if Antoine Wiertz could have been an influence?

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