Christ's Entry into Brussels in 1889

Object Details

Title:

Christ's Entry into Brussels in 1889

Artist/Maker(s):

James Ensor (Belgian, 1860 - 1949)

Culture:

Belgian

Place(s):

Belgium (Place created)

Date:

1888

Medium:

Oil on canvas

Dimensions:

252.7 x 430.5 cm (99 1/2 x 169 1/2 in.)

Copyright:

© 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SABAM, Brussels

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James Ensor took on religion, politics, and art in this scene of Christ entering contemporary Brussels in a Mardi Gras parade. In response to the French pointillist style, Ensor used palette knives, spatulas, and both ends of his brush to put down patches of colors with expressive freedom. He made several preparatory drawings for the painting, including one in the J. Paul Getty Museum's collection.

Ensor's society is a mob, threatening to trample the viewer--a crude, ugly, chaotic, dehumanized sea of masks, frauds, clowns, and caricatures. Public, historical, and allegorical figures along with the artist's family and friends made up the crowd. The haloed Christ at the center of the turbulence is in part a self-portrait: mostly ignored, a precarious, isolated visionary amidst the herdlike masses of modern society. Ensor's Christ functioned as a political spokesman for the poor and oppressed--a humble leader of the true religion, in opposition to the atheist social reformer Emile Littré, shown in bishop's garb holding a drum major's baton leading on the eager, mindless crowd.

After rejection by Les XX, the artists' association that Ensor had helped to found, the painting was not exhibited publicly until 1929. Ensor displayed Christ's Entry prominently in his home and studio throughout his life. With its aggressive, painterly style and merging of the public with the deeply personal, Christ's Entry was a forerunner of twentieth-century Expressionism.

Provenance
1888 - 1949

James Ensor, Belgian, 1860 - 1949 (Ostend, Belgium), by inheritance to his niece, Alexandra Daveluy, 1949.

1949 - 1950

Alexandra Daveluy (Ostend, Belgium), sold to Gustave Nellens, for the Casino Communal, 1950.

1950 -

Casino Communal (Knokke-le-Zoute, Belgium)

by 1954 - 1969

Louis Franck (London, England; Gstaad, Switzerland), sold to his foundation, Fondation Socindec (Vaduz, Liechtenstein), 1969.

1969 - 1987

Fondation Socindec (Vaduz, Liechtenstein), sold through Alex Reid & Lefevre, Ltd. (London, England) to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1987.

Exhibitions
James Ensor (January 19 to February 17, 1929) (Cat. 160)
  • Palais des beaux-arts (Brussels), January 19 to February 17, 1929
Ensor (June to July, 1939) (Cat. 25)
  • Gazette des beaux-arts, (Paris), June to July, 1939
Gloires de la peinture moderne: Hommage à James Ensor (July 23 to August 22, 1949) (Cat. 6)
  • Palais des Thermes (Ostend), July 23 to August 22, 1949
James Ensor (1951 to 1952) (Cat. 27)
  • The Museum of Modern Art (New York), 1951
  • The Institute of Contemporary Art (Boston), 1951 to 1952
  • The Cleveland Museum of Art, (Cleveland), 1952
  • City Art Museum (St. Louis), 1952
Rétrospective James Ensor (June 16 to August 15, 1951) (Cat. 72)
  • Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten Antwerpen, (Antwerp), June 16 to August 15, 1951
James Ensor (February to April, 1954) (Cat. 40)
  • Musée national d'art moderne, (Paris), February to April, 1954
Kunst van Heden / L'art contemporain (May 14 to June 12, 1955) (Cat. 30)
  • Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten Antwerpen, (Antwerp), May 14 to June 12, 1955
Le drame sociale dans l'art de Goya à Picasso (May 21 to June 30, 1960) (Cat. 65)
  • Palais des beaux-arts (Brussels), May 21 to June 30, 1960
James Ensor, 1860-1949 (July 9 to August 31, 1960) (Cat. 51)
  • Stedelijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten (Ostend), July 9 to August 31, 1960
Les sources du XXe siècle: Les arts en Europe de 1884 à 1914 (November 4, 1960 to January 23, 1961) (Cat. 151)
  • Musée national d'art moderne, (Paris), November 4, 1960 to January 23, 1961
Ensor, 1860-1949 (June 17 to September 17, 1961) (Cat. 34)
  • Kröller-Müller Museum, (Otterlo), June 17, 1861 to July 30, 1961
  • Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, (Rotterdam), August 5 to September 17, 1961
40 ans d'art vivant: Hommage à Robert Giron (March 6 to April 12, 1968) (Cat. 1)
  • Palais des beaux-arts (Brussels), March 6 to April 12, 1968
L'art flamand, d'Ensor à Permeke (1970) (Cat. 50)
  • Musée de l'Orangerie, (Paris), 1970
Ensor to Permeke: Nine Flemish Painters, 1880-1950 (September 25 to November 21, 1971) (Cat. 97)
  • Royal Academy of Arts (London), September 25 to November 21, 1971
Ensor (November 6, 1976 to April 11, 1977) (Cat. 25)
  • The Art Institute of Chicago, November 6, 1976 to January 3, 1977
  • Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, (New York), January 28 to April 11, 1977
James Ensor (May 20 to October 30, 1983) (Cat. 61 / 68)
  • Kunsthaus Zürich, (Zurich), May 20 to July 31, 1983
  • Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten Antwerpen, (Antwerp), August 20 to October 30, 1983
Ensor's Graphic Modernism (May 2 to July 30, 2006) (no cat.)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), May 2 to July 30, 2006
The Scandalous Art of James Ensor (June 10 to September 7, 2014) (no cat.)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), June 10 to September 7, 2014
  • The Art Institute of Chicago, November 23, 2014 to January 25, 2015
Related Media
  • /
    Audio: Christ's Entry into Brussels / Mark Leonard - Level 1
  • /
    Audio: Christ's Entry into Brussels / Scott Allan
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    Audio: Christ's Entry into Brussels / Patricia Berman