2I \(rritings by James Ensor z My Life in a Nutshell 5 Three \ilfeeksin the Academy I An Interview with Ensor
T he Dr awin g
C e n te r
April z7 - July 2r, 2oor
B et ween S t r e e t a n d M i r r o r : T h e Dr a win g s o f Ja m e s En so r Curatedby CernrnrNE DE ZrcHen and Rosrnr Hoozuu
My Life in a Nutshell evening,and I won secondprize for drawing I was born in 186o in Ostend, a small town at from classicalheads. the time encircled by ramparts of the most Thus, for three years,I drew from ancient sea. by the salted by ditches beautifirl green and My father was a solid Englishman, born in models in the eveningand painted figures Brusselsin r835, my mother, an inhabitant of from life in the day;at night I composedor cartographiedmy dreams.The composition Ostend, delicately Spaniardized. My mother sustainedme with pralines and contestinterestedme aboveall; from that sugaredalmonds,and a good aunt infused me period date a few works that are still well regarded today, such as Returnfrom Caluary, with overly sugaredmilk. Reason,the man' and instruction of my father, a superior Judas Throwing Money into the hmple, Danceof his big boots inspired fear and terror in me. the NympbqJudith and Holofernes,The Death At the "Colldge Notre-Dame" benevolent of Jezabel,Monks in a State of EcstasyClaim the Bodyof the TheologianOais despiteOpposition teacherseducatedme gently. The taste for painting came at around thir- from the BishopFriton or Friston (Mystic Death teen; then, two pickled and oily old painters of a Tbeologiaz).This composition, which from Ostend,Van Cuyck and Dubaq initiated Portaels,the most eclecticof professors,kept me professoriallyinto the deceptiveeffectsof for a long time, causeda great stir. Then I painted a humble seryant,Woman their dreary meager,bleak m6tier. But at fifTurned-upNose,currently in the Mus6e zuitb surroundings of Ostend's views teen I painted from nature; these little works free of preten- d'Anvers.The spectacleof the street also preoccupiedme, and my pictorial appetites tion, paintings in petrol on pink cardboard developed.I sketchedpassers-by,apples,fowl, me today. charm still blue flasks....Iused every method: pencil, At seventeen,I entered the Acad6mie de watercolor,gouache.And Light enteredleapBruxelles, and was admitted right away to a classin painting from life, under the iron rule ing, like a kid, knocking over tables, distorting glassesand bottles, shatteringwindow-panes ofthree professorswhose accentsclashed, and dishes. along with their opinions:JosephStallaert, Back in Ostend in my parents' shoP, AlexandreRobert, andJef Van Severdonck. chinoiserieand my portraits. In I painted impetuous Jean Portaels, an important and director, in favor and well-considered,imperi- rBSo,TheLamplighter,in r88r Portrait of My Father and RussianMusic, in rB8z, Por"traitof ously lectured on questionsof art. Fellow Motber.,works currently in the Mus6e de My Eward, Crespin, Duyok, students Khnopff, and some wayward boys who were bridled and Bruxelles, Lady in Distress,at the Mus6e du fettered toiled in boredom and without love. Jeu de Paumein Paris. In r88r, I had my debut at La Chrysalide As soon as I got there, great boredom ensued.I was ordered to paint, from a virgin where I exhibited Tlte Colorist,then at "I-lEssor"where they refused WomanEating plaster cast,the bust of Octavian, the most which is now well-situated in the Oysters, plaster white The snowy Caesars. augustof Mus6e d'Anvers. irritated me. I made its goosefleshpink and In r883, masksprofoundly affectedme. bright, and I reddenedthe hair to the great Masks (mus6ede Bruxelles) had Scandalized folstudents-excitement of the excitement held their head high, breakthrough, lowed by vexation, face-making,and blows. their made themselvesconspicuous,round-eyed, In the face of my boldness,the stardedprorecumbent. fessorsdid not push the matter, and subseIn r 884, while stewingin his juicesand an quently I painted freely from live models. admirer of Marie le Hollandais, Vogels raved In order to learn to respectacademicart, about my painting, surprised and influenced I drew and dusted the plaster models in the
Magnificent trinity of flamboyant patronsl by *y notes and inflections; we exhibited Since then, male and female defenders open-air landscapesto the jeering of the abound,all of them vying to decoratethe membersof the "Cercle Artistique" of Brussels. stepsof the ladder leading to Heaven for In 1884,again,the foundation of the Cercle painters of life. Still and always,Croquez the des\4ngt (Les )OQ, a group labeledrevolution- Compassionate,Anatole de Monzie, Herriot, ary, put on exhibitions to academichostility. Jules Destr6e,Louis Pi6rard, Mesdames Emma Lambotte, Flertoge, Stelms, There, for ten years,membersswept awayby my maskscausedme sorrow on top of sorrow. Besnidres,Marie Gevers,Demouilldre, and The flameswere fanned at "La Libre the Siren and my little Chinesegirl swathe Esth6tique," a welcoming salonwhere bizarre me in white, yellow, and pink petals. Interestswere awakened;painters and pointillists, evolving in silence,infiltrated as they wished.There, musiciansmangledpieces musiciansbattled in rhythm and, supreme suspendedby their cords, grated on the nerves pleasure,Music deigned to smile upon me and Gammesd'amoursaccentuatedmy rare of cats,bangedon ketdedrums,eviscerated joys. Rinksopf, Lanciani, Paul Gilson, eardrums,and bombardedthe placewith the Auguste de Boeck,Vrialmont, Moreau, blowing of tubas. But I am ignoring the great Paris of my Brusselmans,Lyr, Gailliard, Chapel, Peelemans,Tellier, Thiebaut, De Sutter, true brothers in struggle. From 1885,suns preoccupiedme. I executedseveraldrawings: Lauwerelms,de Vlieger, Mouqu6, Alpaerts, Visions:TheAareolesof Chr"istor tbe Sensibilities[and] Bastin proclaimed me a musician. of Light.In r886, ChildrenDressing.Inr887, Charming musiciansperformed my pieces: Steyns,Mireille Flour, Thauvoye, de Kesel, CbristHelping St.Antbony.In 1888, The NellyJones,Zllka.... Entry of Cbrist into Brussels,a solid work judged redoubtableby our downcast Writers, poets,Th6o Fleischman,Edmond C6zannenistswith fading eyesreflecting thin, Jaloux,JeanTeugels,Stel'ns,CharlesLeirens, meager,languid candles.Nevertheless,the Charles Conrardy, Van Offel, Georges Ramaekers,De Ridder, Marlier. Henri works accumulated.Men of pure blood, affectedby the senses,rose up as defenders: Vandeputte,Michel de Ghelderode,Richard Edmond Picard, Emile Verhaeren,Eugdne Dupierreux, Besnard,Andr6 Lhote, de Demolder, Maurice des Ombiaux, Franz Marchi, Lepage, L6on Van Pulvelde, Hellens, Gr6goire Le Roy. Cornette,Muls, Laes,Lambotte, Lebeer, Delen, A few rare buyerswere devoted,the daring Maurice Sabbe,Haesaerts,Van de Velde, Fernand Cormmelyrck. came to light: Ernest Rousseau,Robert And the artists, young and old, Vervisch, Goldschmidt, Edgard Picard, Lambotte, Haelen. Ledel, Emaels, SusVan Salz,Van Pamel,Van Damme, de But our politicians and classifiersof artists Valeriola,and on and on, formed a devoted chantedin unison: "Ensor can wait longer!" legion, and all the painters from Ostend Then, disgustedby this illusory support, moved forward toward the rising sun. And the good doctor Cerf, who should the carnal spirit of woman subjugatedme have been a painter, relieved the miseriesof momentarily.Ahl Woman and her mask of flesh, living flesh turned forever into a card- his fellowmen, oyerworked, fatigued, contorted by crisis. boardmask.... Stimulatedby the Francks,patrons Finally, FranEoisFranck came to saveme, armed head to toe, and the refined and appeared,particularly from Antwerp: Mistleq exquisitede Broqueville restored my strength Jussiant,Gevers,Fester,de Lange, by dressingmy wounds. I wish to salutethese I-lHeureux, Speth, Osterrieth, Boorm, Van den Bosch,Van Overloop, Fischer, two powerful poles, protectors and rivals. And Albert Croquez, the great Frenchman Snauwaert,Joye, Tlussel, Max Hallet.... I cannot cite them all. with a Flemish streak.defendedme widelv.
A barony was welcome and touching. It gave me the authority to saveour rocks, our woods, our dunes,our ponds. And always againstvandals,demolishers,wreckersof our most beautiful sites. Let us saveBrusselsand its incomparable panoramas,viciously threatenedby Don Quixote-esque,reckless,unmuzzled, exceedingly unbalancedembellishers.... DEAR
P A I N T ERS,
Let us give in without delay to the pure
kissesof the air, to the benefits of the sea,let us nourish our thoughts first, our bodies second, let us taste the fruits of wide open space, the fragranceand soundsof colors, let us sublimateour ideas. And let us shout: yes, we shall be great, we shall be strong and sensitive....And let us shout more loudly: our wives shall be more beautiful stilll Lady painting, eyer young, I give you my heart, I give you my body. Long May You Livel I love youl
TheEntry of ChristintoJerusalem,r885
Pencilnnd Conti tralon onPaqer 8 ry/r6 x 6 9/r6 in. (zz.yx r6.6 m) TbeJ. PaulGetryMuseum,LosAngeles:ina.?g.DG.4z
Three S(/eeksat the Academv A monologue in episodes. The scene takes place in a painting class. Characters: Three Professors; The Director of the Academy; A supervisor. Silent Character: A future member of the Tiventy. Note: The veracity of the litde remarks that follow is guaranteed.
FIR S T W E E K Prof. Pielsticker.
You are a colorist, sir, but out ofa hundred painters there are ninety colorists. The Flemish side in you alwaysshowsthrough, in spite of everything.I find French artists to be very strong; in an exhibition, one can immediately distinguish them from their neighbors; they are very good at composition. You must not assumea professorruins a study by correcting it; when I wasyour age,I thought that aswell, but now I seethat the professor was right. You are not making progress!This is not modeled! (indicating the study of another student):
Here is one that is going well! Unfortunately, he is too lazy. You are seekingout the surrounding atrnosphere of the placeinsteadof waiting to be good enough at drawing; just think, you have two more ancient classesto dol After that you will have all the time in the world to occupyyourself with atrnosphere,color, and all the rest. You dont want to learn; to paint like that is folly and meanness. I amforcedto compliment you on your drawing; but why do you make drawingsagainstthe Academy?
S E C ON D W E E K Prof. Slimmevogel.
You have made your ground insteadof making your figure; it is not difficult to make a ground. You do the opposite of what you are told. Instead of beginning with dark areas,you begin with the light areas.How can you judge the whole? You must createyour dark areas with a vine black and a burnt siennaearth. I don't know what there is in the air around
here; I have never seena painting classlike the one this year. I would be ashamedif a strangerwalked in. I seenothing there. There is color, but that is not enough. It lacks vigor. You are making it too thick. You certainly seemto be searching, though. You have searchedenough now. Is Prof. Pielsticker correcting your study? This is not the week for it. That is annovins!
TH IR D W E E K Prof. M. Van Mollekot.
What in the world is this?This is much too brown, you knowl Did Slimmevogelcorrect this for you? It startedout so well. You draw so well; but you ruin everything you do. Believeme, what I am telling you is in your interest.Put your study next to the model. You
are afrid of painting. You haveto paint with flat brushes,with a lot of impasto,but you haveto make surenot to treat it like a shaving brush. You are not making it thick enough. I know that you know how to, but you haYeto show the others. You are doing landscapes? Landscapesare farcel
The Director. You draw while painting, bad! Badl You are going to drown. S"nti"1n"ntis your downfall, and you are not the only one. Last week you did a good drawing,
]now it is the samething all over again;perhaps your eyeshurt. A sculptorwould be at quite a lossif he had to make somethingbasedon your I drawing.
The Supervisor. Did Prof. Slimmevogelretouch that? The Director and Prof. Pielsticker are very upset with you becauseofyour painted
jsketches.If you will promise me to change lsryles,I will speakto the Director about it and you may be admitted to the nature class.
The moral: and becomesa member of Les XX. Academy the The student leaves Final moral: Nl his paintings are refusedat the salon'
The professors' names are Pielsticker, Slimmevogel, and van Mollekot. AJthough Pielsticker could be a real name, it is formed from words that mean "someone who shoots arrows"l the name could imply a person who is a "nitpicker" or "hairsolitter." as well. Ensor often embellished chosen words with bawdy double meanings, giving them a slightly obscene edge. Pirtrtikg could be an invented slang term: piel is tDurtch slang term for "prick" and thus the name becomes "prick sticker." Slimmepogel joins the Flemish slim (srn:irt) and "vogel" (bird), with the implication that this professor is a "sly dog": however, uogel ii aiso a slang term, so something like "smart prick" is also implied here. Van Mollekot translates as "molet home," ,oggiaitrg that this professot has poor vision. fSusan Canning, BetweenStreet and Mirrzr: The Drawings of Jarues Ensor (New YorVMinneapolis:
The Drawing Center/IJniversity
of Minnesota Press, 2001), 73)'
Ensor and General Letnan DiscussingPainting, t89o Colorerlpencil and gouacheon paper, l 3/4 t 7 t/8 in. (tz x 18 m) on loan tn Maseum aoor SchoneKunsten, Ostend; ina tg6t/877o Collection of tbe Vlaamse Gemeenscbap,
An Interview with Ensor My revonrrE euALITy: The illusion of greatness. My pnrNcrPALFLAw:Nonchalance. Mv pevonrrE occupATroN: Illustrating others,making them ugly, enhancingthem. My onEanr oF HAppINEss:To wound philistineswith a camel'sjawbone.t My cnr,ere sr soRRRow:Indecision,a horror of exhibitions. Wner I wouro LrKETo sr: Mathusalem'swife. TirE couNrnv I wour.o LrKETo LrvE rN: The land of plenty.The land of Mocking. The joyous land of cheese. Tirn coron I pnnrnn: Thigh of excitedn1.'rnph,English red, a macaque'srose-coloredposterior. Tirr rlowpn I pnEEEn:The lily crossedwith the dandelion.The iris. The poppy-red cornflower. THB eNruar I pnernn: The enragedcrab.The badger.The butterfly.The ermine. The plithofritocinocampophotobarbeaumussidextrospiliomekostinko.The fighting spurlut. General Boum, and others. TirB rrno I pnnrBn: The pheasanthen. Quail on a canap6.The crane.' Mv ravonrrE AUTHoRoF pRosE:Colette, Gyp, GeorgesSand.The ridiculous pr6cieuses.' Mv pevonrrE poET: Claude BerniBres,Mme de Noailles, Mme Eug. van Outryved'Ydewalle.La Syrdne. Mv revonrrE IATNTER:Mme Emma Lambotte. Mme Vig6e-Lebrun.Marguerite van Eyck. Angelica Kaufinann. Rosa Bonheur. My ravonrrE coMposBn:Mimi Pinson.Lala \/a.ndervelde. Gabrielle Remy. Mv revonrrE MALEcHARAcTERrN FrcrroN: \tlain XIII. Roland Furieux. Ratapoil.Thrtarin. Mv pavonrrE FEMALEcHARACTER rN FrcrroN: Bradamante. Marphise. My Hano rN REALrrns: The joyous cur6 of Meudon. King Dagobert. Mv nnnorNE rN REALrrre: Mme de Pompadour.Isabellela Catholique.Mme Putiphar. H6loise. Mlle de Sombreuil. Parysatis,flayer of eunuchs. TirB rooo AND BEVERIcBI pnernn: Blue cheese,gray bread,oranges,red cabbage,green fruits, the nosesof priests, the sighs of nuns. My revonrrE NAMES:Claire,Rose,Blanche. Wner I orrpsr Mosr: Calf's head Racheland cod liver oil. Destroyersof natural settings. Inquisitors. Arrogant, scholarly surgesof opinion. \4visectors filled with cruelty, puffed up with self-importance and profi table insensitivity. Fftsronrcal FIGURE I nBsprscMosr: Joseph,Torquemada,PontiusPilate. Mrrrreny rBar I ADMTRE: The kidnapping of the Sabines.The siegeof Ostend. Tirn nnronu I nsrnnu Mosr: The reform of a decrepitand bad constitution. Tnn crpr oF NATUREI wour,n LrKETo navr: The gift of secondsight. How I wouI,D LrKETo orn: Like a flea crushedon a virgin's white breast. My pnesnNT srATE oF MrND: Rambling,wandering,capering,straddling,prancing. Ennons rHAT rNSprRE THE Mosr TNDULGENcE: Spellingerrors. My uorro: Bullying self-importance calls for the final saintly puncture. tanslator's Notes l. une mAchoirede chameau(a camel's jawbone), brt cbameaucan also mean "scoundrel." 2. la grue (the crane) is also slang for "prostitute." l. The ridiculous snobs, from a play by Mollidre. Or, the ridiculously affected.
The Drawing Center is the only not-for-profit institution in the country to focus solely on the exhibition of drawings, both historical and contemporary. It was established in rg76 to provide oppornrnities for emerging and under-recognized artists; to demonstrate the significance of drawings throughout history; and to stimulate public dialogue on issues of art and culture. This is number z r of the Drawing Papers,a series of publications documenting The Drawing Center's exhibitions and public programs and providing a forum for the study of drawing. The Dra.zttingPaperc publication series is printed on Monadnock Dulcet roo# Smooth Text and 8o# Dulcet Smooth Cover' The Drawing Center's presentation of this exhibition has been made possible by Robert Lehman Foundation, Inc. its sole U.S. and foundation sponsor. Additional financial support was received from The Flemish Community of Belgium.
Board of Directors Drre Alronv Gnoncp NrcnopoNro Co-Chairmen FneNces BEerrv AolEn Mnr,ve Bucrsnauu Jeurs M. Clenx, Jn. FneNcBs Drrrurn Cor,rN Ersr,pn ErrzesrrH Facron BnucE W. FrncusoN Mrcnerr, IovrNxo WBnrvEn H. Knauensxv Assv LrrcH Wrr,r,reu S. LrrnrnuaN Mrcnarr, LvNNp Er,rzesrrH RonarvN* Enrc C. RuorN Dn. Alr,BN Lpr Spssolrs JaervNr C, TiqeYrn* Eoweno H. Tircx ANonre WoooNEn CerrrrntNr
Erecutiae Director *Emerita
The Drawing Center 35 Wooster Street New York NY 10013 Tel: 212-219-2166 F*':212-966-2976 Designedby Luc Drnvcxr Coordinatedby Kerrt Dvnn Tianslatedfrom the French byJraxrut HnnueN @ 2001The Drawing Center My Life in a Nutsbell,Tltree lVeeks in the Acadtn! and An Interaiew with Ensor originally pubfished inJames Ensor Ma Erits (Liege: Editions Nationales,1974). Dates provided by Ensor in these texts have not been changed to reflect recent scholarship' Coverr My Portrait, fi84. Mus|es rolaux des Beaw-Am
Cbarcoal and white chalk on paper, jo r/z x zz 3/4 in. (75.5 x 57.8 m) Musea uoor Scbone Kunsten uan Belgii, Bresels; ina. 6621 de Belgique, Brwds-Koninklijke
Published on Apr 26, 2001
The Drawing Center's Drawing Paper, Volume 21 Featuring writings by James Ensor, translated by Jeanine Herman.