October 11, 2012

Getty Research Institute Announces Gift of Rare 18th and 19th Century Prints

The gift includes three prints by James Ensor (1860-1949) and twenty-three etchings by Jean-Jacques de Boissieu (1736-1810)


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Amy Hood
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Hop-Frog’s Revenge, 1898.  James Ensor (Belgian, 1860-1949). Print. Research Library, The Getty Research Institute. © 2012 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SABAM, Brussels.

LOS ANGELES—The Getty Research Institute (GRI) announced today 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. 

King Pest, 1895.  James Ensor (Belgian, 1860-1949). Print. Research Library, The Getty Research Institute. © 2012 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SABAM, Brussels.

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.

Anesse avec son anon, 1797.  Jean-Jacques de Boissieu (French, 1736-1810). Print. The Getty Research Institute.

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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The J. Paul Getty Trust is an international cultural and philanthropic institution devoted to the visual arts that includes the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Getty Research Institute, the Getty Conservation Institute, and the Getty Foundation. The J. Paul Getty Trust and Getty programs serve a varied audience from two locations:  the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Getty Villa in Malibu.

The Getty Research Institute is an operating program of the J. Paul Getty Trust. It serves education in the broadest sense by increasing knowledge and understanding about art and its history through advanced research. The Research Institute provides intellectual leadership through its research, exhibition, and publication programs and provides service to a wide range of scholars worldwide through residencies, fellowships, online resources, and a Research Library. The Research Library—housed in the 201,000-square-foot Research Institute building designed by Richard Meier—is one of the largest art and architecture libraries in the world. The general library collections (secondary sources) include almost 900,000 volumes of books, periodicals, and auction catalogues encompassing the history of Western art and related fields in the humanities. The Research Library’s special collections include rare books, artists’ journals, sketchbooks, architectural drawings and models, photographs, and archival materials.

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