(Belgian, born 1927)
Hommage á Ensor (Homage to Ensor), 1959
oil on canvas, 57 1/4 x 50 1/2 inches
As a child, Pierre Alechinsky was fascinated with a landscape painting by James Ensor that hung in his grandfather’s home. A fellow Belgian who lived from 1860-1949, Ensor “was a tormented and savagely original Impressionist,” Alechinsky recalls, whose mixture of expressive brushwork and primitive figuration proved deeply influential to the younger artist. In Hommage á Ensor (Homage to Ensor) he pays tribute to the visionary, often misunderstood painter who paved the way for his own modern brand of abstraction. As with all his work, Alechinsky approached the blank canvas without preconceived notions of the final results, an improvisational process that allows him to “throw out what is inside of me and make it an external reality on canvas, so that I can discover myself.”
Alechinsky’s energetic paintings blend colorful passages of brushwork with swooping calligraphic outlines that often suggest human forms. This melding of abstract and figurative impulses that is characteristic of Art Informel, the postwar European equivalent of American Abstract-Expressionism. Painted in Paris, where the artist relocated early in his career, this work was an award-winning entry in the fifth and final International Hallmark Art Award of 1960. In addition to acquiring this work for its corporate collection, Hallmark purchased a second painting titled General Assembly which it donated to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, a longtime beneficiary of gifts from Hallmark.
Where does my art begin? Shall I start by making small lines, small crosses, small dots, or by a big sweeping stroke, by a big spot, or by an idea? Shall I begin by caressing the canvas which in my dreams already carries the completed work? No, I begin with only myself. My hands begin their movement. Nobody is there. My geography is uncharted. My head follows my eyes. No complicity–no encouragement. An impression takes form; I alone am possible.
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