Halloween's Over, But...

...some macabre things deserve to hang around all year.  Like the paintings of Belgian artist James Ensor (1860-1949) and his GLORIOUS apartment in Ostend.

Ensor took delight in macabre nightmarish fantasies, like the one he portrayed in The Banquet of the Starved. Guests sit around the Last-Supper style table, clad in grotesque masks and engaged in a variety of sinful activities, inspired by the German occupation of Belgium and accompanying period of starvation:

Above, The Banquet of the Starved, 1915.  The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Above, La Vanité Dansante, 1945. Image via Michael Tollemache Fine Art

Ensor's family owned a curiosity shop (Ostend was a famed carnival resort-town), from which he drew much inspiration. (Look at all of the fantastic masks!) Of course, I'm apt to feel great affection towards anyone who dresses up their sofa and GIVES IT A HEAD.

Ensor's paintings are breathtaking within the context of his apartment. Interiors like this one make it obvious how deficient a gallery setting can be at times...

Below, an image of a shelf of masks from the souvenir shop.  From one of his letters: "I spent my childhood in my parents' shop, surrounded by strange creatures of the sea, by magnificent shells of pearly iridescence, and by the bizarre skeletons of sea monsters and marine plants."

Late in life, Ensor reminisced about the shop and its influence on him:
In my parents' shop I saw the undulating lines and sinuous shapes of beautiful shells, the iridescent gleam of mother-of-pearl and the rich tones of fine chinoiserie, and above all the sea, vast and constant, made a profound impression upon me.
Artists' Houses, by Gérard-Georges Lemaire

Scans and quotes from Artists' Houses by Gérard-Georges Lemaire, Photographs by Jean-Claude Amiel, 2005.


Haute World said...

This is pretty fantastic... his idea for that sofa is more than amazing. I'm sure some would go crazy in that apartment, but I love someone who is passionate enough to surround himself with things that inspire him. Those masks and paintings are disturbing yet though-provoking, which is probably what he's aiming for. Thanks for sharing this!

M said...

The last interior is so beautiful... the blue walls seem very calming. I think a head attached to my sofa would be a little much for me... I can't even keep one of those "hands" for rings and bracelets in my bedroom without having nightmares! :D


Haute-Shopper- No problem! That's exactly why I love the apartment- you can CLEARLY see the source of his inspiration, and the way it interacts with his paintings.

Couture Cookie- Oh my god, I know what you mean about the hand. It took me AGES to get used to the mannequin I have in my room.

Off the List said...


Definitely going to steal the idea of a witches ball as the bottom drop of the chandelier.

Greet Lefèvre said...

I was delighted to see your post about our Belgian painter Ensor!
Thank you!!

António Erre said...


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...