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The carnivalesque in James Ensor’s Painting

Cho, Soojin 1

1이화여자대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

James Ensor’s painting had expressed characteristics of carnival, the carnivalesque, which was the culture of the general public who were the basis of social stratification, having critical consciousness toward the reality of society of his time and the value system of bourgeois who was the ruling class in those days. As a result, the general public who were embodied as with rogue, fool, and clown, etc., and the grotesque images of the carnival,like the people’s masks and so on, were reproduced in an ironic and satiric style. In this process, James Ensor pictured his own external persona (mask wearing personalities) as a treacherous artist making the best use of the mask of carnival. In the meantime, however,behind the masks worn by the general public who were the basis of social stratification,there were perceptions on the limit, viz. so called born to the bourgeoisie families, and such conflicts between these two identities were revealed in the numerous self-portraits where skeleton icon which was James Ensor’s another self were appeared. Likewise, the carnivalesque in James Ensor’s painting was media that enabled the artists who were the member of the bourgeois class to give shape to their inner selves,and, at the same time, it was the radical means of expression responding to elite culture in those days. In this paper the researcher, through above investigations, tried to draw a conclusion that the pursue of the carnivalesque abjection and lowness of James Ensor was a kind of 'masquerade’ in order to reveal his own external personality as a treacherous artist. Nevertheless, James Ensor’s art world has the meaning to a certain extend from the perspective of accepting those that belonged to the general public who were the basis of social stratification, that is to say, the-Other, and also of utilizing it affirmatively, in the time when the repressive value system of bourgeois had reached its apex. In this respect, he can be named as ‘bohemian artist’ who had positioned in the front line of bourgeois class. The bohemians were positioned in the outside of the institutional culture by themselves in the history of arts, and are regarded the same as avant-garde that carried out new cultural experiment. James Ensor was indeed the avant-garde artist who volunteered to get a position as bohemian which was to be placed on the margins of mainstream society, refusing services to high art which was the proper function of an artist who had received education in the academy. If we can take James Ensor as bourgeois bohemian, we will be able to include those expressionists who appeared thereafter in the same category. It’s because they all not only capitalized transgressive factors which were owned by the others in order to reinforce their own arts, and to renew their art world, but also because they expressed dualistic self-portraits in their works having suffered from confusion in selfidentity as a result. Thus, it can be said that, to a certain extent, James Ensor was the avantgarde artist who charged to play the role as a trailblazer of expressionism.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.