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At first glance, Alfred Kubin (1877-1959) and James Ensor (1860-1949), as well as their work, seem very different from each other. Both artists are from a different generation, but they also differ in origin and nationality. However, on closer inspection we can discover common features.
What characterises both of them is the sense of the grotesque and of satire.
Like Ensor, Kubin was inspired by ancient and modern literature. Both artists have a sense of sarcasm as well as gallows humour. In some of their engravings, both Ensor and Kubin use a similar whimsical visual language that is distinguished by an apparent but deceptive naivety.
Several prints, both by Ensor and Kubin, refer to street graffiti, to children's drawings or to drawings by so-called mentally retarded people. The German psychiatrist and art historian Hans Prinzhorn (1886-1933) also referred to Ensor in his publication Bildnerei der Geisteskranken (1922), which will leave a lasting impression on Alfred Kubin. In 1920 Kubin visits Prinzhorn's art collection in Heidelberg. The works of the so-called feeble-minded leave a lasting impression on him. In the leading German-language art magazine Das Kunstblatt, he dedicates a laudatory article to the Prinzhorn collection.
What also fascinates both Kubin and Ensor is the world of theatre. In numerous prints and drawings, Ensor and Kubin, each in their idiosyncratic way, depict the grotesque world of disguise and distortion. In numerous caricatures, both denounce social abuses and the skewed balance of power in society. “All my fallen creatures, my drunks, prostitutes and beggars, are derived from a small number of original types, which have made a wonderful impression on my childhood soul,” Kubin once said.
This exhibition with a selection of works aims to highlight the parallels between the two artists. It is the first time in Belgium that works by both artists are confronted in an intimate way and enter into dialogue with each other. This is only possible thanks to the generous loans from the Oberösterreichischen Landesmuseum, Linz.