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Le feu d'artifice (Fireworks)

James Ensor (Belgian, 1860-1949). Le feu d'artifice (Fireworks), 1887. Oil and encaustic on canvas, 40 1/4 x 44 1/4 inches (102.24 x 112.4 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; George B. and Jenny R. Mathews Fund, 1970 (1970:9). © Estate of James Ensor / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / DACS, London.

© Estate of James Ensor / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / DACS, London

Image downloads are for educational use only. For all other purposes, please see our Obtaining and Using Images page.

© Estate of James Ensor / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / DACS, London

Image downloads are for educational use only. For all other purposes, please see our Obtaining and Using Images page.

© Estate of James Ensor / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / DACS, London

Image downloads are for educational use only. For all other purposes, please see our Obtaining and Using Images page.

James Ensor

Belgian, 1860-1949

Le feu d'artifice (Fireworks), 1887

oil and encaustic on canvas

support: 40 1/4 x 44 1/4 inches (102.24 x 112.4 cm); framed: 51 3/4 x 55 3/4 x 2 1/2 inches (131.45 x 141.61 x 6.35 cm)

Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York

George B. and Jenny R. Mathews Fund, 1970

1970:9

Currently On View

More Details

Inscriptions

signature, dated / front, lower right / Ensor 87
signature, dated / front, lower right / Ensor 1887

Provenance

the artist;
transferred to the estate of the artist (Paul van de Perre, executor) upon his death in 1949;
sold to a private collector, Brussels;
to Allan Frumkin Gallery, New York, mid-1950s;
sold to Robert Rowan, Los Angeles, October 24, 1964;
Robert Elkon Gallery, New York;
sold to Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, January 20, 1970

Class

Paintings (visual works)

Work Type

Oil painting (visual work)
Encaustic painting (visual work)

This information may change due to ongoing research. Glossary of Terms

In 1884, James Ensor began creating highly personal works centered on satirical themes that were often rejected from inclusion in exhibitions. In this work, he depicts a wide, slightly rolling landscape in which many vaguely defined small figures stroll about as if enjoying a leisurely outing. In the distance, an enormous explosion of fireworks bursts against a sky of intense blue. “Fireworks” is representative of Ensor’s middle period, during which he developed menacing themes in seemingly simple compositions. Here, the intensity and scale of the explosion on the horizon—rendered in bright hues of orange, red, and yellow—create a sense of both calm and catastrophe. This visual ambiguity is commonly found throughout Ensor’s body of work, reflecting his ongoing desire to merge the fantastic and the real. Such scenes also reference the apocalyptic landscapes of early nineteenth–century British Romantic painters J. M. W. Turner (1775–1851) and John Martin (1789–1854). Ensor’s slow building of pigment and encaustic, a thick wax medium, resulted in a surface laden with heavy impasto, yet also a high degree of gritty translucency.
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