Intrigue: James Ensor by Luc Tuymans

James Ensor was a Belgian painter with English roots, but mostly unknown to the British people. With the exhibition Intrigue: James Ensor curated by Luc Tuymans, artist Luc Tuymans introduces the theatric and conventional work of Ensor to the British people. This exhibition is in collaboration with The Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Antwerp (KMSK), who owns the biggest Ensor collection worldwide.

Seen as an precursor of expressionism, the painter’s works are showing conventional themes and topics such as death, masks, skeletons, carnival and transvestites. It was his answer to the society and art business, who didn’t accepted his work. He received bad reviews and got refused to present his work at exhibitions. Ensor responded: “The mask means to me freshness of color, extravagant decorations, wild generous gestures, strident expressions, exquisite turbulence.””

One of the most well known masquerades in his oeuvre is The Intrigue, the painting who shared his name to this exhibition. It belongs to one of Tuymans favourite works and is the center of this exhibition. The painting shows a women who hooked up a man and shows him proudly to the crowd. The color use and contrast of the masks are giving the man a deadly impression.

Ensor’s works will be accompanied by a selection of Gilles De Binche carnival masks, two works on paper by Belgian Symbolist painter Léon Spilliaert and Guillaume Bijl’s 2002 black and white film James Ensor in Ostend. Tuymans’ curation of the exhibition will engage with the sense of mystery, anonymity and mischievousness associated with masks.

Intrigue: James Ensor curated by Luc Tuymans is running till 29 January 2017 at The Royal Academy of Art, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London



The Intrigue – James Ensor 1890


James Ensor in his atelier


Left: Gilles De Binche – Luc Tuymans 2004, this painting is part of the exhibition
Right: Portret of Luc Tuymans in front of The Intrigue


Squelette arrêtant masques, Recently discovered work by Ensor from 1891


Left: Videostill from Guillaume Bijl’s 2002 black and white film – James Ensor in Ostend
Right: La Baigneuse – Léon Spilliaert 1910