Sunday, March 25, 2012

Baron Ensor and Blavatsky

A recent post at the blog The World According to Mrs B reminds us that John Gheeraert’s book on the Belgian artist James Sidney Edouard, Baron Ensor, De geheime wereld van James Ensor [The Secret World of James Ensor], is still unavailable in English. “I think it should be translated because it recounts a very interesting period in Ensor’s life while Blavatsky was in Ostend writing her Secret Doctrine (published in 1888) and, according to Gheeraert, he was fascinated with her and her ideas. The book does teeter on the edge of fiction as it is not a full-blown biography, but still some interesting stuff.”

The author Gheeraart says: ‘The key to Ensor’s secret lies in his Brussels period. There he got into contact with the famous freethinker Ernest Rousseaux. I further discovered that the co-founder of the Theosophical Society, Helena Blavatsky, between 1886 and 1887, lived a year in Ostend and wrote her “Secret Doctrine,” the bible of the theosophists, there. My research showed that Ensor, in his most creative period, much of the esoteric works were derived from Blavatsky. But Ensor was also friends with famous Asia-traveler, Alexandra David-Neel. She also spent some time in Ostend. I discovered such totally unexpected sources that provided insights about a painter whose life is usually seen as ‘boring’.

Ensor (1860–1949), a major figure in the Belgian avant-garde, noted for his use of colour, spent most of his life in Ostend.

James Sidney Edouard, Baron Ensor
Self-Portrait with Masks, 1899

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