James Ensor (1860-1949)
Property from a Private Belgian Collector
James Ensor (1860-1949)

Poires, raisins, noix

James Ensor (1860-1949)
Poires, raisins, noix
signed and dated 'J.Ensor 1889' (lower right).
oil on panel
7½ x 9½ in. (19 x 24.5 cm.)
Painted in 1889
F. van Haelen, Brussels.
G. van Damme, Galerie Ubu, Knokke.
Marcel Mabille, Rhode-St-Genèse.
Private collection, Brussels, by whom acquired circa 2000.
E. Verhaeren, James Ensor, Brussels, 1908, p. 115.
G. Le Roy, James Ensor, Brussels & Paris, 1922, p. 182.
P. Haesaerts, James Ensor, Brussels, 1957, no. 238, p.109 (illustrated).
P. Haesaerts, James Ensor, London, 1958, no. 109, p. 314 (illustrated, titled 'Small Fruits').
F.C. Legrand, Ensor cet inconnu, Brussels, 1971, no. 115.
X. Tricot, Ensoriana, Oostende, 1985, no. 23a, p. 34.
X. Tricot, James Ensor, Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings, vol. I, 1875-1902, Antwerp, 1992, no. 281, p. 258 (illustrated).
X. Tricot, James Ensor, Ostfildern, 2009, no. 294, p. 299 (illustrated).
Antwerp, Kunst van Heden - L'Art Contemporain, February - March 1912, probably no. 5.
Antwerp, Kunst van Heden - L'Art Contemporain, April - May 1922, no. 450.
Paris, Musée du Jeu de Paume, L'Art Belge depuis l'Impressionnisme, 1928, no. 85 (titled 'Nature morte').
Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Rétrospective James Ensor, January - February 1929, no. 172 (titled 'Petits fruits').
Charleroi, Salle de la Bourse, Cercle Artistique et Littéraire,
XXXIIIe, Salon: Hommage à James Ensor, March - April 1949, no. 26 (titled 'Fruits').
Otterlo, Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, Ensor 1860-1949, June - July 1961, no. 37a; this exhibition later travelled to Rotterdam, Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, August - September 1961.
Brussels, Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Ensor, September 1999 - February 2000, no. 83 (illustrated).

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Giovanna Bertazzoni
Giovanna Bertazzoni

Lot Essay

'Yes, our actions are pictorial, our inventions are enormous, our thoughts are tragicomical, our temptations are burlesque, our desires are born of the flatlands, our paradises are made of dough and condensed milk, and our endearments are made of butter' (James Ensor, quoted in Michel Draguet, 'Ensor; Theater of Matter,' exh. cat., James Ensor, New York, 2009, p. 90).

Painted in the same year as his great masterpiece L'entrée du Christ à Bruxelles, the present richly worked and intimate still-life scene would at first sight appear to be the complete opposite to this vast canvas of mask-like figures entering the artist's capital city. Yet, for Ensor, all of life was a kind of 'theatre of matter' to which he, as a painter, brought a particularly visceral understanding. In the same way that Ensor's figure subjects parade across his canvases often as a macabre collation of masks, whose fixed grins, leers and frozen expressions display a carnivalesque strangeness and exoticism, so too do the series of still life paintings he produced regularly throughout his life.

Presented, as in this work, on a simple shelf set against a sky-like background so that the shelf seems to become a beach receding into the sea, the simple forms of the objects under study here take on an exotic, almost surreal aspect or sense of otherworldly reality. Painted with fine, almost obsessive craftsmanship and a strong visceral fascination with their texture and material nature, Ensor's objects become a theatre or carnival of their own. Part landscape, part figure-study, part still-life the compositional grouping in this work becomes a fascinating and sensual study in material contrasts that collectively embraces and celebrates the richness, variety and strangeness of life.

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