The Story of a Time Period

James Ensor's imagination reads as an entity of reactions, associations and impressions of everything that his sensitive and restless mind saw happening around it. The artist employed direct observation to serve his unbridled imagination. The motifs which Ensor processed read as a story of his time, and are a bundle of humanity's roguishness, wickedness, excesses and fears. As far as the themes are concerned James Ensor's graphic works are closely interwoven with the rest of his oeuvre. This ranges from prints of which the motifs link up with his drawings and paintings - such as portraits, landscapes, harbour and town views, still lifes - to prints for which he sought inspiration in compositions by Rembrandt, Pieter Bruegel, Jacques Callot, Gustave Doré or Honoré Daumier. A turning point in Ensor's graphic work occurred around 1890. The artist seemed to lose interest in a purely creative approach. The result was that hardly any original compositions were produced and Ensor revisited existing drawings and paintings that he thought were worth reproducing as prints. After 1910 he would also produce even in his drawings and paintings tens of replications and variations of previous work.