James Ensor

James Ensor

Art Institute of Chicago

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The Temptation of Saint Anthony
This engaging volume describes the creation and restoration of the extraordinary large-scale drawing The Temptation of Saint Anthony—a work by late 19th-century Belgian artist James Ensor (1860–1949)—on the occasion of its first public showing in more than 60 years. The piece is composed of 51 separate sheets of paper collaged into a hallucinatory social critique and artist’s manifesto. Each sheet of the nearly six-foot-high work is reproduced at actual size, revealing Ensor’s remarkable technique and fertile imagination. Here, Saint Anthony is surrounded not with nature, as customary, but with the moral decay of society. Replete with tiny scenes depicting both sexual temptation and spiritual piety, Ensor splices potent imagery from travelogues, popular science, and technology magazines into a Symbolist masterpiece. Susan M. Canning, Patrick Florizöone, and Nancy Ireson analyze the drawing’s meaning; Herwig Todts details its origins and early history; and Kimberly J. Nichols recounts the work’s restoration.


Susan M. Canning is professor of art history at the College of New Rochelle in New York. Patrick Florizoone is director of the James Ensor Archive, Ghent. Nancy Ireson is Rothman Family Associate Curator at the Art Institute of Chicago. Kimberly J. Nichols is associate paper conservator in the department of prints and drawings at the Art Institute of Chicago. Herwig Todts is curator of modern art at the Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Antwerp.

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