Religious Theme

The theme of Christ was also incorporated by James Ensor into his graphics. The artist's relationship with the gospel however was a very self-willed one. He did not adhere strictly to the literary source and he also did not use any archeological or empirical information as far as the architecture or the clothing of the Jewish and Roman figures were concerned, nor with regards to the climate or the landscape. To make his choice of subjects inspired by religion James Ensor allowed himself to be led by motifs of an artistic nature, i.e. the attempt to give an expressive value to light. More than once an iconographic model would be a reason for Ensor to incorporate his sensitivity for the enchanting light. Two independent sources evoke this effect: the sun breaking through the clouds and the imaginary light which Christ is the source of. It is characteristic of Ensor that he assimilated several examples and techniques from the past whilst searching for a way to capture the essence of the light. The figure of Rembrandt was especially important in this. The religious theme also allowed Ensor to express his discordant relationship with society. Like many of his contemporaries he was fascinated by the figure of Christ as a revolutionary or an anarchist. It is remarkable that Ensor identified himself with the figure of Christ, and this identification with Christ became stronger as Ensor became isolated as an artist and got into conflict with the artistic environment of his era as a misunderstood innovator. After all, James Ensor saw his equal in the figure of Christ as the victim of slander and incomprehension, but Christ-Ensor, the Messiah of modern art, would resurrect and start to play a leading role.