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James Ensor (1860-1949)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more
James Ensor (1860-1949)

Nature morte aux cerises

James Ensor (1860-1949)
Nature morte aux cerises
signed and dated 'J. Ensor 89' (upper left)
oil on canvas
18 1/2 x 20 1/2 in. (47 x 52 cm.)
Painted in 1889
Lichtenhahn collection, Basel.
Hanspeter Steuer, Binningen, by 1963.
Anonymous sale, Galerie Widmer Auktionen, St Gallen, 29 April 2016, lot 28.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
The Artist's Handlist, no. 69 (referenced as 'nature morte cerises').
E. Verhaeren, James Ensor, Brussels, 1908, p. 114 (dated '1888' and titled 'Nature-morte').
G. le Roy, James Ensor, Brussels, 1922, p. 181 (dated '1888' and titled 'Nature-morte').
X. Tricot, James Ensor, Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings, Antwerp, 1992, no. 282, p. 258 (illustrated).
X. Tricot, James Ensor, The Complete Paintings, Brussels, 2009, no. 295, p. 299 (illustrated).
Basel, Kunsthalle, James Ensor, June - August 1963, no. 48 (illustrated); this exhibition later travelled to Münster, Landesmuseum, August - September 1963.
Basel, Kunstmuseum, James Ensor from the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp and Swiss Collections, September 2013 - January 2014, no. 112 (illustrated).
Special Notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.
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Lot Essay

Like Ensor’s paintings of masks, carnivals and skeletons, his mature still-life paintings of the late 1880s and 1890s convey an otherworldly, almost magical quality, in which the artist translates the objects of daily life into a strangely familiar yet somehow peculiar narrative landscape. Nature morte aux cerises focuses on a mismatched assortment of objects, from the gentle curves of a short ceramic pot flanked by two towering glass vessels, to the plate of bright red cherries in the foreground, their textures, shapes and idiosyncratic colouring sharply observed and executed with sumptuous attention to detail. By showing these objects in such close proximity to one another, Ensor draws attention to the subtle juxtapositions and contrasts that exist between their different forms, highlighting the shifts in textures, materiality, and shape that occur as the eye moves from object to object.

This collection of oddities may have been partly inspired by the unusual tableaus he came across as a child while wandering through his family’s souvenir and curiosity shop in Ostend. Ensor grew up amongst the dark shelves and ever-changing landscape of the shop, surrounded by ‘shells, lace, rare stuffed fish, old books, engravings, weapons, Chinese porcelain, an inextricable jumble of miscellaneous objects’ (Ensor, writing in a letter to Louis Delattre, 4 August 1898). He would later claim that it was this extraordinary environment that instilled a strong sense of curiosity in his young mind, sparking his creative imagination and leading him to follow his artistic passions. The extravagant detailing of the jug nestled between the two glass bottles on the right hand side of the composition is particularly evocative of the kind of curios Ensor most likely discovered in his family’s establishment, its elegant silver stopper and handle radiating an impression of distant, exotic lands.

The entire scene is bathed in a delicate luminescence, evoking the unique atmosphere and distinctive quality of light that characterised Ensor’s hometown of Ostend on the North Sea. Building his composition with multiple layers of soft, pastel pigments, Ensor creates a sparkling atmospheric effect, lending the scene an ephemeral, spontaneous quality that captures the fleeting play of light as it passes over the scene. It is this sensitivity to colour and atmosphere, along with its careful sense of composure and balance, that makes Nature morte aux cerises a testimony to Ensor’s life-long obsession with capturing harmonies of colour, compositional balance and the musicality of light.

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