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Getty Research Institute announces gift of rare 18th and 19th century prints
James Ensor, King pest, 1895. The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles. © 2012 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SABAM, Brussels.

LOS ANGELES, CA.- The Getty Research Institute announced the acquisition of European prints from the 18th and 19th centuries, including works by James Ensor (Belgian 1860-1949) and Jean-Jacques de Boissieu (French, 1736-1810). These prints are a gift from an anonymous collector.

“Prints are a significant collecting priority for us and we are grateful for this exciting gift, which strengthens our holdings of Ensor prints and adds a robust representation of works by Boissieu,” said Marcia Reed, chief curator of special collections at the Getty Research Institute.

Three hand-colored etchings by James Ensor are exceptional examples of his work from the 1890s, when his creativity reached its apex. Two of the three prints take inspiration from stories by Edgar Allan Poe. Each print contains the eerie imagery for which Ensor is known—skeletons, masks and throngs of swelling crowds. These signature elements are also prominently featured in Ensor’s famous painting Christ’s Entry into Brussels in 1889, 1888, which is part of the J. Paul Getty Museum’s permanent collection. The GRI holds significant collections on Ensor, including more than 100 autographed letters and many prints, which, in concert with Ensor’s masterpiece at the Getty Museum, make the Getty an important repository for the artist. In 2014 the Getty Museum will mount a major, monographic exhibition on Ensor, which will include prints from the GRI.

Among the newly acquired Ensor etchings is Hop-Frog’s Revenge, 1898, which depicts the Edgar Allan Poe character, the mistreated court jester Hop-Frog. He takes his vengeance against a cruel king and his council by chaining the men together, hanging them from a chandelier, and lighting them on fire.

Two more Ensor etchings included in the gift are King Pest, 1895, also based on an Edgar Allan Poe story, and The Scavenger, 1896. These works join 16 graphic works by the artist already in the GRI’s collection as well as an archive of Ensor’s correspondence and manuscripts, with more than 100 signed letters and postcards.

A collection of 23 etchings by Jean-Jacques de Boissieu (French 1736-1810) spans Boissieu’s career. An accomplished painter and draftsman, Boissieu was also a renowned printmaker, highly respected in the 18th century. The artist’s landscape scenes are inspired by 17th century Dutch paintings. The collection contains several sheets of Boissieu’s sensitively rendered studies of heads—both man and animal.

All of these prints are now part of the GRI’s Special Collections, which comprise rare and unique collections in art history and visual culture from around the world, including more than 27,000 prints ranging from the Renaissance to the present.

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