Contemporary, Modern Art and Old Masters

Auction 176 - 26 september 2020

Contemporary, Modern Art and Old Masters Lot 31

James Ensor (Belgium / 1860 - 1949)
Pier with steamer (Ostend) (1884)


€ 100 000 - 150 000

"Kunst van Heden" Antwerp 1908, nr. 10 (?)
"James Ensor" Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris 1954, nr. 10 ("Port d'Ostende")
"James Ensor" Stedelijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Ostend 1960, nr. 44
"James Ensor" Emile Verhaeren, Brussels 1908, p. 112 ("Marine")
"James Ensor" Grégoire Le Roy, G. Van Oest & Cie., Brussels/Paris 1922, p. 178 ("Marine")
"James Ensor. Catalogue raisonné des peintures" Xavier Tricot, Pandora, Antwerp 1992, nr. 265 reprod.
coll. Gustave Kéfer, Paris
coll. B.G. Désagnat, Paris
auction Gal. Georges Giroux, Brussels 23/6/1955, nr. 26
coll. William Murdoch, Schoten
auction Sotheby's, London 2/7/1980, nr. 125


James Ensor's childhood home in Ostend was only a few steps away from the North Sea. No surprise he quickly became familiar with the gray body of water and its changing appearances. The endless shades of light and color interplaying with sun, clouds, mist and wind dazzled the young artist, who had just said his farewells to the Brussels academy.

"Pier with steamer" (1884) is an impressionist vision of the sea, which is, however, miles away from the meticulous, picturesque impressionism common at the time. Above all, the intoxicating gray of the North Sea creates a feeling. The smogginess and gloominess, the uncertain and disconcerting are captured in rough strokes applied with a flat palette knife, which not entirely cover the blank canvas. This raw vision emanates from the artist's enthusiasm, who is young and clearly looking for his own formal language.

A thick and dense atmosphere covers the sea like a blanket. The heavy mist, almost tangible, hovers over the still water and sea and sky converge. Despite the gray tones, a delicate play of light emerges depicting the artist's skill. Almost monochrome, foreground and background appear to be one abstract totality. In a most minimalist way, Ensor creates a dramatic effect of depth towards infinity.

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