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Playing with Light, Light Studies

Children at Their Morning Toilet

Ensor spoke about light as it were a living essence. In a speech from 1932, he says: Je n’ai pas d’enfant, mais lumière est ma fille, lumière une et indivisible. (Mes écrits, ed. 1974, p. 150) 'I have no child, but light is my daughter, the light, one and indivisible‘. Regarding the many studies that he drew and painted as a young artist from the windows or in the sitting-room of the parental home, he wrote, Je croque des passants, des pommes, des volailles, des flacons bleus... Tous les procédés sont bons: crayons, aquarelle, gouache. Et gosse Lumière entre en sautillant, culbutant tables, déformant verres et bouteilles, brisant vitres et vaiselle. (Mes écrits, ed. 1974, p. 206) (I sketch those passing by, apples, blue bottles ... All techniques are appropriate: gaphites, aquarelle, gouache. And, all at once the light comes bouncing in, like a child that topples over tables, transforms bottles and glasses, shattering windows and dinnerware.) Ensor‘s studies of the sea, the dunes, interiors and even his portraits are for the most part studies of light effects, whereby light sometimes plays a domineering, as in the citation, and also disruptive role. In the paintings and drawings from 1885-1887, light takes on an even more dominant role. Ensor studied it as a godlike power that radiates through everything.

The series of drawings, The Aureoles of Christ (1885-1886) has as a second title, The Sensibilities of Light. Children at Their Morning Toilet (1886) was called a 'light study‘ by the artist. The landscapes and seascapes from this period, as well as the greatest compositions, such as Adam and Eve Expelled from Paradise (1887) and Fall of the Rebel Angels (1889) are in the first place abstract studies of colour and light.

Robert Hoozee