After his studies at the Brussels Academy, Ensor started painting rather traditional way. His early works were of traditional subjects: landscapes, still lifes, portraits, and interiors painted in deep, rich colors and enriched by a subdued but vibrant light. In the 1880’s, Ensor style changed to a mixture of symbolism and expressionism. He also co-founded the avantgardist art group "Les vingt". He took his subject matter principally from Ostend’s holiday crowds, which filled him with revulsion and disgust. Portraying individuals as clowns or skeletons or replacing their faces with carnival masks, he represented humanity as stupid, smirking, vain, and loathsome. At age 18, James Ensor painted his most known work "Christ’s Entry Into Brussels". This controversial painting makes fun with the entry of Christ in Jerusalem. In 1892, Ensor’s art went through some more changes. Though he still made extensive use of his famous masks, Ensor decided to use pastel colours. In 1920 Ensor also wrote the music for the ballet "La Gamme d’Amour". James Ensor was made a Baron in 1930 by the Belgian king. He died in 1949 in Ostend, where there is now a museum devoted to his work.
In 1995, the state of Belgium recognized Ensor’s achievements by dedicating the 100-franc bill to him and his work.
born Dec. 7, 1598, Naples, Kingdom of Naples [Italy]
died Nov. 28, 1680, Rome, Papal States
This is a painting of Dudley, my hometown, by one of England’s finest ever artists -Joseph Mallord William Turner
Turner visited Dudley, Worcestershire in the late summer and autumn of 1830. The town is situated half-way between Birmingham and Wolverhampton in the heart of England’s Black Country, so called because of ‘the dense clouds of smoke which belched continuously from thousands of coal-fired hearths and furnaces’.
These polluted the environment with vast amounts of soot. In addition to highly concentrated manufacturing enterprises, Dudley was associated with the invention of the steam engine (it was first operated near Dudley Castle in 1712) and in 1821 the first iron steamship was built in the Dudley area at the Horseley Ironworks. If Turner wanted to capture the essence of English industrialisation, he could hardly have chosen a better subject than Dudley.
Turner depicts the dramatic intensity of a town in the throes of industrial change against the backdrop of a traditional landscape. The symbols of tradition and faith (the ruins of Dudley castle on the hillside and the church steeples to the left) are pictured alongside the furnaces, chimneys, boilers and canal boats of the modern industrial age.
For the writer and painter John Ruskin (1819-1900), who owned the work at one stage, ‘Dudley’ represented Turner’s own hatred of industrialisation. In 1878, he wrote that he found it a clear expression ‘of what England was to become’, with its ‘ruined castle on the hill and the church spire scarcely discernible among the moon-lighted clouds, as emblems of the passing away of the baron and the monk’. In fact, Ruskin’s interpretation is distorted by his own increasing antipathy towards industrialisation and probably had little to do with Turner’s real intentions.
In ‘Dudley’ the emphasis is on the remarkable forces of power and energy beneath the surface of industry. This is emphasised by the nocturnal setting; we see figures at work in the artificial light produced by the many fires associated with manufacturing. There is a mysterious aspect to this illumination because we are never quite sure where the light is coming from- it represents the hidden, mysterious powers of mechanisation.
Gilbert and George
British Performance Artists
Gilbert & George place themselves, their thoughts and their feelings at the centre of their art, and almost all of the images they use are gathered within walking distance of their home in London’s East End. Yet their pictures capture a broad human experience, encompassing an astonishing range of emotions and themes, from rural idylls to gritty images of a decaying London; from fantastical brightly-coloured panoramas to raw examinations of humanity stripped bare; from sex advertisements to religious fundamentalism.
From the beginning, they wanted to communicate beyond the narrow confines of the art world, adopting the slogan ‘Art for All’. As a result they have joined the very small handful of artists to become household names, and their impeccably-dressed figures are instantly recognisable to the general public.
George was born in Devon in 1942. Gilbert was born in Italy in 1943, in a small village in the Dolomites. They met as students on the sculpture course at St Martins School of Art, London, where they exhibited together and soon began to create art together. They adopted the identity of ‘living sculptures’ in both their art and their daily lives, becoming not only creators, but also the art itself.
They established their reputation in 1969 with THE SINGING SCULPTURE. Standing together on a table, they danced and sang the Flanagan and Allen standard ‘Underneath the Arches’ – a song in which two tramps describe the pleasures of sleeping rough. It was a telling choice, harking back to prewar England and traditions of vaudeville, while also identifying with the fringes of society. Gilbert & George were invited to present THE SINGING SCULPTURE all over the world, sometimes for eight hours at a stretch. Realising, however, that they could reach only a handful of people at a time, they began to create films and pictures that could extend the idea of living sculpture without requiring their physical presence.
They are amongst my favourite contemporary artists and as here always feature themselves in their works.