The Smart-Ass Guide to Art

James Ensor (1860-1949)

ensor's thing Christ's Entry into Brussels in 1889 (1888)
Country: Belgium
Style: Symbolist (mostly)
Teachers: Daniel Dubar, others
Major Works:
Christ's Entry into Brussels in 1889 (1888)
The Temptation of St. Anthony (c. 1899)

Interesting Stuff: Like Bosch before him, much of Ensor's work is filled with lots of grotesque, macabre figures. From the work above, you can tell he's quite a fan of striking colors as well.

For a time during his career he really identified with Christ, feeling his suffering as an obscure artist with unkind critics paralleled Christ's suffering. (If he was really suffering, shouldn't he have identified more with Job? And, I mean, how bad could life have actually been? It's not like anyone nailed him to a cross or anything. Ah, but I digress...) That is, until he became more widely known and loved as an artist. Then he cheered up. So much for the similarity. You can find other similarities in the handy Ensor-Christ comparison chart to the right.

He became so famous in his home country of Belgium that King Albert made him a Baron. Now that's cool!

He sounds familiar to some folks because They Might Be Giants wrote a song about him. Found on the "John Henry" album, it features what has been called the "monkey drumming" section (performed by Brian Doherty). Listen to the whole song, and then think of those wind up monkey toys and you'll understand.

Ensor - Christ
Comparison Chart
James Ensor Jesus
Born in Ostend in 1860 Born away in a manger, 0 AD
Founding member of "Les XX", a short-lived group of artists Founder of a major world religion still practiced by millions today
Was persecuted by angry art critics Was persecuted by angry Romans
Left his mark in paintings Left his mark on a shroud

Check out a piece of the song for yourself! Meet James Ensor (wav file)