Sources of Inspiration

Along the lines of the Flemish realist tradition, James Ensor drew inspiration from the world he was living in, from his own fruitful imagination and from reproductions which he examined and publications which he read..

Ensor was most interested in artists who dealt with the problem of light from a subjective involvement, such as Rembrandt and William Turner, and in artists with whom he shared his sense of irony and caricature, such as Jacques Callot, Honoré Daumier, Alfred Grévin or William Hogarth. Because of the typical Ensor-like character references to the prints that had inspired him disappeared or were hardly noticeable at all. At all times we are dealing with an entirely new creation conjured up by Ensor's mind and imagination.

Ensor found a number of motifs for his art in fin de siècle-literature: Pierrot, death, the crowd, devils and demons, and Christ, the typical vocabulary used by the symbolists. He admired the fictitious tales written by Edgar Allan Poe. Prints such as Hop-Frog's Revenge and King Pest refer to the American writer's work.