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You are watching: Portrait of the artist surrounded by masks


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James Ensor


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Tokyo National Museum of Modern Art


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3-1 KitanomarukoenTokyo, Japan


More around Self-Portrait with Masks

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Year
1899
Medium
Oil paint, Canvas
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Dimensions
H: 117 x W: 82 cm
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James Ensor: Chronicle of His Life, 1860-1949 by Xavier Tricot

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Claudia Li

Contributor


In Self-Portrait with Masks, James Ensor idolizes madness (and also himself, of course) in a sea of obtained identities and also unintentional cameos.

James Ensor embopassed away an art activity all on his very own. Nobody then or currently can fairly area him in a particular group, since his taste for the macabre collection him acomponent from Impressionists choose Georges Seurat and his method in the direction of light veered in the direction of madness, not appreciation.

In the late 1800s, medical professionals and social researchers diagnosed madness as a condition that afflicts the masses. Out of reason and also regulate, the lower classes then need tender love and treatment to return ago to their normal, disgruntled, pennimuch less selves. Otherwise, the madness will spread to literally everyone and also the rich will fall and chaos will ensue and the human being will certainly burst right into flames. The end.

Wear a mask, youngsters, insanity is transmittable.

Ensor took “masks” incredibly literally; he flourished up approximately them, and his family’s shop stocked via carnival masks populated the floor appropriate below his room. He began including even more of them right into his artjob-related after his father and dear maternal grandmommy passed amethod within a short expectations of each other. They served as coping mechanisms in managing a reality too cruel and also irrational to understand.

Political upheaval in Belgium likewise led Ensor to come to be an anarchist, or someone who rejects anything that hregarding do with the state. Like the side character in a rom-com, the anarchist yearns for somepoint he knows he will certainly never acquire. Yet he cannot resist imagining a future without order or class. Your average anarchist enjoys drinking coffee, spanalysis gossip, and watching people damage themselves—from a distance. We swoon.

For Ensor’s self-portrait, masks serve 2 purposes: concealing people’s true selves and revealing the reality around people in general. According to a theorist that Ensor was quite fond of, politicians wear masks so repetitively that they inevitably merge through their masks and lose their identities to irreparable corruption. Politicians, then, become inhuman.

A massive statement indeed, yet, then aget, anarchists don’t really sweat the small stuff.

And so Ensor presents us with a riotous self-portrait complete of human-like masks, mask-like humans, and a couple of creatures that resemble neither masks nor human beings. Notable cameos include:

Ronald McDonald after a five-year scolor in jail for petty theft, haunting Ensor’s right shoulder

Whether these masks belengthy to anyone humale is debatable. Just as anarchy has no firm historic basis on which to stand, Ensor’s utopian universes come freshly baked from the imagination of his brain.

If the reduced classes endure from madness, and also political leaders from calculated insanity, is there anyone left to trust? In self-portrait with Masks, Ensor presents himself as the single beacon of sanity in a sea of insanity. His outfit of red, the exact same scandalous scarlet painted on the masks’ lips, might imply that he represents the reality that the masks insurance claim to stop but in fact carry out not.Or, judging from his history of paint absurd visions through frequently unintelligible ramifications, Ensor could be the ideal mask of all.

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Campbell-Johnston, Rachel. "The guy behind the masks; James Ensor"s art was prominent in Europe - and it"s absolutely bizarre, finds Rachel Campbell-Johnston." The Times(London), December 16, 2016, first ed., T2 sec.Eisenmale, Stephen F. "Allegory and also Anarchism in James Ensors "Apparition: Vision Preceding Futurism"." Record of the Art Museum, Princeton College 46, no. 1 (1987): 2-17.Jonschild, Stefan. "Society Degree Zero: Christ, Communism, and the Madness of Crowds in the Art of James Ensor." Representations 75, no. 1 (Summer 2001): 1-32.