Ensor’s masterpiece "Squelette regardant chinoiseries" (Skeleton looking at Chinoiseries) is on loan this autumn to the Vienna Kunstforum, as part of an important exhibition on Japonisme.
It is of no surprise to find this painting, belonging to the King Baudouin Foundation, alongside masterpieces by Monet, Van Gogh and Klimt at the “Fascination Japan” exhibition at the Vienna Kunstforum.
At the end of the 19th and early 20th century, the craze for works of art and objects in general coming from Japan and the Far East influenced the formal language of many Western artists and the term ‘Japonisme’ was coined to describe this effect.
Japonsime is at the very heart of Squelette regardant chinoiseries, a key work to understanding Ensor’s artistic development. In this painting, Ensor adopted a satirical and macabre approach to the aesthetic of the Orient, a perspective that is not only interesting but very atypical. The year in which this work was painted – 1885 – bears witness not only to the early welcome given to Japonisme in Belgium, but also to the spread of the phenomenon well beyond the frontiers of the Parisian art world.
In fact, Ensor came into early contact with Chinoiseries and other exotic artefacts because his mother had a curiosity shop in Ostend and his sister was married to a Chinese trader. Ensor himself collected ukiyo-e (Japanese prints), vases, textiles, masks and fans.
Anyone curious to discover this passion for Japan and its influence on Western art will love the “Fascination Japan” exhibition, open until 20th January 2019, at the Kunstforum, Vienna.
Practical information: Kunstforum Wien Freyung 8, 1010 Vienne, Austria Daily 10h-19h, late night opening Fridays until 21h