The Cathedral

The Cathedral


James Ensor

(Belgian, 1860-1949)


Support: Wove paper

Sheet: 31 x 22.4 cm (12 3/16 x 8 13/16 in.); Platemark: 24.2 x 18.8 cm (9 1/2 x 7 3/8 in.)

Gift of The Print Club of Cleveland 2003.46

Catalogue raisonné: Taevernier 7

State: I/III (first state of the first plate)


A Belgian painter, printmaker and draftsman, James Ensor incorporated into his art aspects of realism and symbolism and simultaneously anticipated German Expressionism and Surrealism. As a result, his visionary work is difficult to categorize. A prolific printmaker, Ensor made over 100 etchings; The Cathedral is considered his greatest accomplishment in the medium. With meticulous use of the etching needle, the artist rendered the crowd in extraordinary detail, while the cathedral, soaring above, is suffused with radiant light. In The Cathedral, the monumental church is evidence of human genius and offers the possibility of salvation. But grotesque members of the carnival mob in the foreground turn their backs on the church, rejecting the potential for human goodness and the possibility of redemption. The mocking and destruction of human dignity by an irrational mob is a persistent theme throughout Ensor's oeuvre.

See also
PR - Etching
Type of artwork: 

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