Satires en ‘drôleries’

Satires and caricatures were the perfect resources for James Ensor to express his non-conformism and his playful, at times malignant fantasies. Rather than reproducing a world which denied and rejected him, he tried to recreate reality according to his own frame of mind in order to control it that way. The artist shaped imaginary creatures in an uncontrolled manner and used this as a basis to build up the entire composition. Sometimes Ensor also turns to the comical deformations of the caricaturist as in The Descent into Hell in which he discovered the artistic possibilities of a subjective force of expression. Together with The Elephant's Joke or The Phantom this print is part of a series of 'drôleries', in which Ensor is testing the possibilities of the clean line. The simplistic, intentionally clumsy modeling is totally at odds with the extremely refined evocations which the landscapes, town and harbour views are an example of. But then this style is in harmony with the subjects and motifs which are covered in this series of prints. This assembly is meant to provoke hilarity, a decisive aspect in Ensor's grotesque works.