Town views

James Ensor worked out his town views in detail as if they were little topographical documents, accurately observed and recorded with simplicity. Views of old town parts were very popular in the 19th century, for example Henri De Braekeleer in Antwerp or James McNeill Whistler, who exhibited London town views in 1888 at Les Vingt. In Ensor's etched town views we can recognise, for example, the capital and his home town Ostend. The Brussels town views are a reference to the time when Ensor stayed in Brussels as a student at the academy and to his frequent visits to friends who lived in the capital. From his workshop in the attic of the parental home in Ostend Ensor also regularly drew and painted the street scene which he observed below in the Vlaanderenstraat or in the Van Iseghemlaan. The most famous etching made by James Ensor, The Cathedral, also fits in with these town views. Apart from the towers, the building is quite a true copy of the choir of the Dom in Aachen. The artist, who had never visited the German town, probably got his inspiration from a reproduction. The crowd of people stacked on top of each other is a typical feature of Ensor's crowd scenes.