death mask


James Ensor is the master of the mask—literally. In Self-Portrait with Masks (1899), the artist paints himself in the middle of a carnival throng. Only the heads are visible in the perspective, the bodies blocked by an agglomeration of weird and scary faces. Near the center of the canvas is the artist himself, looking a little apprehensive, but very human in comparison to the ghouls, demons, monsters and skulls hemming him in on all sides. The painting begs questions about an artist who never managed to fit in. No wonder his anti-heroic stance inspired the alternative rock band, They Might Be Giants, to cut their 1994 single, “Meet James Ensor.” The song title isn’t ironic. Although Ensor is well known in Belgium—the old 100 Franc bank note even sported his portrait —his fame does not always spread beyond Northern Europe.

more from Dawn-Michelle Baude at artcrtical here.