La Naissance de Vénus by James Ensor
La Naissance de Vénus by James Ensor La Naissance de Vénus by James Ensor La Naissance de Vénus by James Ensor La Naissance de Vénus by James Ensor La Naissance de Vénus by James Ensor
La Naissance de Vénus by James Ensor

La Naissance de Vénus by James Ensor

  • The powerful and emotive oil was composed by Belgian avant-garde painter James Ensor
  • Entitled La Naissance de Vénus, it captures a solitary Venus emerging from the sea
  • Ensor was highly influenced by classicism and the Old Masters
  • This work represents his highly modern twist on a classic art historical trope
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Item No. 30-9696
$598,000
description
specifications
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description
James Ensor
1860 - 1949 | Belgian

La Naissance de Vénus
(The Birth of Venus)


Signed "Ensor" (lower left)
Signed and titled "J. Ensor / Naissance de Venus" (en verso)
Dated "Janvier 40" (on frame)
Oil on canvas

A work of engaging richness and emotion, La Naissance de Vénus invites the viewer directly into the heart of the personal and highly poetic world of the great James Ensor. A major figure in the Belgian avant-garde, Ensor's highly modern oeuvre stands as an important precursor to the Expressionists of the 20th century. With its vivid colors and poignant composition, the present work is typical of his output, containing all of the best characteristics of his mature style. Brilliant colors and flowing lines lend an emotional impact to the otherwise simplistic scene, which feature a solitary Venus against the vast nothingness of the expansive sky and sea.

The figure of Venus was the subject of many paintings, drawings and engravings in Ensor's work. He felt a certain affinity for the goddess, recounting in his writings that he was born “the day of Venus,” and claiming, “At my birth Venus came toward me, smiling, and we looked long into each other’s eyes. She smelled pleasantly of seawater.”

The present work represents Ensor's manifestation of Venus' own birth. The scene is based on the classical Venus Anadyomene (from Greek, "Venus Rising From the Sea"), in which the water-born goddess emerges from the water, wringing out her hair. La Naissance de Vénus attests to Ensor's engagement with classicism and the Old Masters, which preoccupied him throughout his career. Yet, here, Ensor’s Venus exemplifies his habit of personalizing the classical prototype. Pictured without her shell or her entourage of attendants, Ensor's Venus is a solitary, striking figure rising against the green-blue sea and blood red sky. The artist's intentionally crude brushwork marks a deliberate departure from the classical ideal, instead invoking an expressionistic, highly emotional response to Venus' miracle birth.

Born in 1860 in Ostend, Ensor's artistic talent was recognized and encouraged at an early age. He began formal painting lessons at the age of fourteen, and enrolled in the Academy of Fine Arts in Brussels beginning in 1877. Following his studies, he returned to his parents' home, where he maintained a studio until 1917. Aside from brief trips to France and England, he spent most of his life in Belgium and his home town of Ostend.

His talent was recognized early during his lifetime, and he exhibited extensively through Belgium. In 1895, his painting The Lamp Boy was acquired by the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique in Brussels. By the 1920s, he became the subject of major exhibitions and was named a Baron by Albert I of Belgium. Alfred H. Barr, Jr., the founding director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, proclaimed Ensor the boldest painter working at that time. Today, this legendary artist's works can be found in museum collections around the world, including the Musée d'Orsay (Paris), the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique (Brussels), the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles), the Tate Modern (London), and the Museum of Modern Art (New York), among others.

This important work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by Belgian art expert Harold t'Kint de Roodenbeke.

Dated 1940

Canvas: 19 3/4” high x 24 1/8” wide
Frame: 26 3/4” high x 31 1/4” wide

References:
James Ensor: The Complete Paintings, Brussels, 2009, by X. Tricot, no. 834 (illustrated)

Provenance:
Gillicoux Collection, Belgium
Palais des Beaux Arts, Brussels, sold November 6, 1950, cat. 26
Palais des Beaux Arts, Brussels, sold March 14, 1972, cat. 59
Dr. Sierens, Aalst, Belgium
By descent, Oudenaare, Belgium
specifications
Framed:31.25"W x 26.75"H
Unframed:24.125"W x 19.75"H
Period: 1919-Present
Origin:Belgium
Subject:Nudes
Depth:2.75 Inches
Width:31.25 Inches
Height:26.75 Inches
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