olieverf op linnen

James Ensor, 'Carnaval en Flandre',     oil on linen, 72 x 90.5 x 6cm. 1929-1930


The most striking element of Ensor’s painting Carnaval en Flandre is the long, happy line of people dressed for carnival. They are making music, dancing and appear to be enjoying a scene that is taking place in front of them: two cats attacking a ragged-looking bird. The paint is thinly applied predominantly in soft pastel colours with bright contrasts in green, red and blue. The image is a section from the background of Ensor’s famous work Intocht van Christus te Brussel (Christ’s Entry into Brussels)*, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles from 1889.

New context

Removed from its original context, the work assumes a new significance that most likely resides in the crowd’s cruel enjoyment of the fighting animals, a scene that does not feature in the original painting. Considered in retrospect, Ensor may be seen as a precursor of the expressionists. His work contains plenty of grotesque images depicting the malicious and ridiculous nature of human beings.


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