collection
37,4 cm x 45,4 cm
2011-GP

The painting The Baths at Ostend is characteristic of a group of paintings that Ensor made between 1889 and 1893-1894 on small panels. In these works Ensor painted in a very graphic way, while his drawings on paper from the same period also resemble small paintings. The Baths at Ostend also has the character of a painted drawing, developed in the casual and improvisational approach that was uniquely his. The work has a special artistic value, including the effect of the preparation layer that Ensor allows to play a role within his representation of the popular pastimes of fashionable bathers. It is a sparkling, satirical and striking sketch of fin de siècle madness in the most important Belgian coastal town, circa 1900. To the left are the beach cabins that were drawn down to the water by horses, after which the generally distinguished men and women could enter the water and  through the eyes of Ensor  immediately loose all dignity as bathers. The mass spectacle is watched carefully by an audience from all walks of life, who are to be found on the beach and also on the cabins. Some spectators even have binoculars with them in order to better ascertain the details. A photographer has positioned himself on top of one cabin, possibly a reference by Ensor to the contemporary photographs and postcards that captured the Ostend seaside visitors. The painting is considered one of the most popular works in the artists oeuvre. In 1899, Ensor made an etching of The Baths at Ostend, also in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts Ghent, which remarkably shows no mirroring of the image. The work was included in the List of Masterpieces protected in law by the Flemish Community, in an attempt to prevent important works leaving the country. It was acquired in 2011 by the Flemish Community and is on loan to the MSK.