Masks Confronting Death by James Ensor

James Ensor was a Belgian painter and print maker, an important influencer of expressionism and surrealism.He was part of the artistic group called Les XX. It  was a group of 20 Belgian painters, designers and sculptors, formed in 1883. He created 133 etchings and dry-points over the course of his career. In 1919 he was awarded the Order of Leopold ( one of the three current Belgian national honorary orders of knighthood).

In this painting we see individuals wearing different kinds of masks and there is a skull in the center. All of these masks look different and has it’s unique style. Some of the masks can cover the whole face and hide the real identity of the person, where there’s some that only hide partial. The skull in the center doesn’t have any mask or paint on it. The background is mostly blue and white with a little touch of pink.

This painting could represent the double-face that we human beings have. How people can always lie about things and death is the only truth. Also it was during that time when Ensor lost his father, so this could have had a big effect on his perspective toward life. Maybe this could be about how death is certain and you can’t hide from it with disguises.

I was attracted to this painting because it stood out from the rest of paintings. It was kind of out of the place and looked kind of weird. That’s when I took a closer look and realized that even thought it looks crazy and  it has a deeper meaning to it and it’s also open to many interpretation . Also was it purposefully painted in a messy in order to convey a message?

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One Response to Masks Confronting Death by James Ensor

  1. JSylvor says:

    Adel, You have chosen such a mysterious and intriguing painting to share! It’s always interesting just to see what we are naturally drawn to. The painting, particularly given its title, makes me think of the ancient tradition of death masks – in which masks were made by making an impression of the face of someone who had just died. The masks then preserved the image of the person’s face. Here it is hard to know whether what we are looking at are skeletons or people in masks or something else entirely. As for your last question, I think it’s safe to assume that everything in the painting is a deliberate choice, so why do you think that the painting has that hazy quality? What effect does Ensor create that way?

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