April 13, On This Day
Expressing satire in surrealism
Born on April 13, 1860, James Sidney Edouard or Baron Ensor was a Belgian painter and printmaker, and an important influence on expressionism and surrealism associated with the artistic group Les XX. During the late 19th century, much of Ensor’s work was rejected as scandalous, particularly his painting Christ’s Entry Into Brussels in 1889 (1888–89). This piece came around between 1888 and 1892 — a turning point in Ensor’s work — when he turned to religious themes, often the torments of Christ.
In 1889, Ensor also created two highly political etchings. One titled Doctrinal Nourishment [or Alimentation Doctrinaire], depicts key figures in Belgium—a bishop, the king, etc. defecating on the masses of Belgium. These prints are very rare today because Ensor attempted to remove them from circulation after being named Baron and many others were lost during the war.
As Ensor achieved belated recognition in the final years of the 19th century, his style softened and he painted less in the 20th century.
A Nobel talent
The recipient of the 1999 Nobel Prize in Literature, Günter Wilhelm Grass, passed away on April 13, 2015, at the age of 87. The German novelist, poet, playwright, illustrator, graphic artist and sculptor, is known for his left-wing political ideologies, and his first novel, The Tin Drum (1959), is a key text in European magic realism. Interestingly, he was also a respected visual artist and had studied sculpture and graphics. It is written that: “His painting tended towards bold images in the style of Picasso and Max Ernst. Similar imagery would emerge in his writing, as did a consistent use of animals as powerful motifs: dogs, cats, snails and rats; to symbolise death and decay he summoned the toad.”