Tribulations of Saint Anthony

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James Ensor

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Tribulations of Saint Anthony

James Ensor. Tribulations of Saint Anthony. 1887. Oil on canvas, 46 3/8 x 66" (117.8 x 167.6 cm). Purchase. © 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SABAM, Brussels

Audio Program excerpt

James Ensor

June 28–September 21, 2009

Director, Glenn Lowry: Here, Ensor depicts St. Anthony struggling against earthly temptations, a traditional subject, which had renewed interest among the Belgian avant-garde. Ensor conceives it in a way that's anything but traditional.

Artist, Terry Winters: The whole painting is organized as a kind of car pileup, and in the lower left there's a huge pile of images of overlapping depictions in a variety of representational styles, and different kinds of perspectives that are all happening across the surface. So it's almost as if there's a kaleidoscope of vistas happening across the painting all at once.

I think there's a wide variety of paint application across the entire surface, from very thin washes to encrusted passages that are literally Ensor squeezing tubes of paint out onto the canvas. And I think he was able to utilize paint itself as a subject, in a way that even his most radical contemporaries were never able to do.