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Masked Brawl

Posted on by Minneapolis Institute of Arts

James Ensor, Belgian, 1860–1949, The Intrigue, 1911, Gift of Mrs. John S. Pillsbury, Sr. ©2000 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

In this painting, James Ensor, a pioneer of Expressionism, employs grotesque masks to both conceal and reveal. The central subjects are his sister, Mariette, in blue hair and green cape, with her top-hatted fiancé, Tan Hée Tseu, a Chinese art dealer from Berlin. The couple’s engagement had caused a scandal in the hometown of the Ensor family  and the artist, in retaliation, depicts the town gossips, disguised in their masks, who have come out to gawk and laugh.

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