Ensor: The Great Masquerade
The modern symbolist James Ensor (1860–1949) from the Flemish coastal town of Ostend is famous for his paintings of masks, skeletons and other strange figures. What is less well known is that he also composed music. Marije Tolman, winner of the Gouden Penseel and the Bologna Ragazzi Award, has combined these two disciplines in a wistful picture book, which is part of a successful series of illustrated art books published by Leopold and the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag. In Ensor, de grote maskerade, the artist goes on a fantastic journey, starting and ending by his beloved sea.
The illustrations of peculiar sea creatures, human sized insects and imaginatively attired carnivalgoers are made up of soft shades, with Ensor’s black hat and tailcoat forming a fine contrast. As in De boomhut, the award-winning picture book that Tolman created with her father, which has been exhibited all over the world, an atmosphere of dreamy melancholy fills the pages. The simple sentences sweep the reader along into a world where masks rain down and Death is a welcome guest who makes a wonderful partner for a dance in the waves. Ensor, de grote maskerade is a richly imaginative interpretation of the life of one of Flanders’ most important innovators in modern art. This is a musical picture book with a never-ending conga as its enchanting finale.