Ensor to Basquiat

The Arts


Walking through the Museum of Modern Art I was stopped short by "The Tribulations of Saint Anthony," an 1887 oil on canvas by the Belgian painter James Ensor.


The work (46 3/8 x 66") is colorful and is loaded with dramatic characters. It wasn't the bold colors or balanced composition that got me, though. Rather, the cartoon-like sketches scattered across the painting caused me to double take. Here are a couple of close-ups I took with my camera phone:


I couldn't help but think of Jean-Michel Basquiat, whose work is known for the childlike sketches of a similar ilk. To wit, here is a typical Basquiat piece:



Untitled (1981) by Jean-Michel Basquiat



Also, both Ensor and Basquiat's facial renderings are disturbing. Skulls and mask-like faces feature prominently in the work of both artists. Could it be that Ensor prefigured Basquiat? Or, that Ensor inspired some of Basquiat's work? Basquiat, being a New Yorker, could certainly dip into MoMA anytime, and may have very well seen the Ensor piece. Something to consider...


Here is a little more about that Ensor piece, from the MoMA site:




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Jean-Michel Basquiat, Museum