Flemish Government Purchases Les bains à Ostende (The Baths of Ostend)



The Flemish Community announces the purchase of one of James Ensor's top works, Les bains à Ostende (The Baths of Ostend). Up until now, the 1890 work was part of a private collection. 'This was an opportunity to keep a top work of the Ostend master within Flanders and to supplement the 'Flemish Collection'', said Flemish Minister of Culture, Joke Schauvliege.


Since 26 April 2007, The Baths of Ostend has been on the 'List of the (movable) cultural heritage of the Flemish Community', the so-called List of Items of Exceptional Importance and Masterpieces. The motivation for the inclusion on the list is: 'The Baths of Ostend is characteristic of a group of paintings and drawings that Ensor made between 1889 and 1893-94 on small, precious and carefully prepared panels. The choice of material indicates the nonchalant and improvisational working method that is a personal trait of his. The work has an especially artistic value, among others, through the effect of the preparatory surface that Ensor played with in the ultimate presentation and the satirical depiction of the mundane bathers in Ostend, the queen of bathing cities and one of the most important bathing locales of Europe. The work is thus of exceptional importance, both technically and thematically.'


List of Items of Exceptional Importance and Masterpieces currently contains some 347 works and a 230-count collection. There are 19 works by Ensor (and the KMSKA-drawing collection) on the list.


Les bains à Ostende is 37,5 by 45,4 cm and is signed and dated by the painter in the middle (1890). Until quite recently, the work was part of a private collection. It was purchased now for 1.330.000 euro. It is a sparkling, mildly satirical and compelling sketch of the fin-de-siècle frenzy of Ostend's Bath. The work is seen as one of the public favourites from Ensor's oeuvre.


Flemish Minister Joke Schauvliege: 'It was a unique chance to be able to add this work of Ensor to our cultural partrimonium. As is known, the KMSKA has the world's largest Ensor collection in house. Because the museum in Antwerp will be closed at least until the end of 2017 for renovation work, it has been decided that The Baths of Ostend will be loaned out to the Museum of Fine Arts in Ghent. In this way, the public can still go see a fine ensemble of works by Ensor in Flanders and become acquainted with the new purchase, even during the closing period of the KMSKA.'