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The Oyster Eater

James Ensor

The Oyster Eater

James Ensor
  • Original Title: La mangeuse d'huîtres
  • Date: 1882
  • Style: Impressionism
  • Genre: portrait
  • Media: oil
  • Dimensions: 207 x 150.5 cm
  • Order Oil Painting

"Ensor produced landscapes, still lifes and portraits, as well as genre scenes featuring his sister, mother and aunt. The Oyster Eater, the high point of his work at that time, brings together these different pictorial genres magnificently. The picture shows his sister Mitche concentrating on eating oysters, with a profusion of flowers, plates and table linen before her. But The Oyster Eater was certainly too bold for the highly conservative milieu at the time, and was rejected at the 1882 Salon in Antwerp.

However, Ensor was not entirely without success in traditional circles as he exhibited a painting at the Brussels Salon in 1881 and two others in Paris in 1882. He then committed himself to the liberalisation of art exhibitions, and fought to become the leader of an artistic school. He was particularly involved in creating the group known as Les XX who quickly came to play a leading role in the avant-garde.

Brought up on the shores of the North Sea, Ensor was passionate about the effects of light. In (...) The Oyster Eater, the shimmering liquids in the glasses and the reflections in the mirror already reveal the painter's interest in the power and quality of light. For him it is the opposite of line, which is in itself the "enemy of genius" and "cannot express passion, anxiety, struggle, pain, enthusiasm or poetry, such beautiful and great feelings…" (from Musée d'Orsay exhibition text)

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