Tag Archives: Ensor

Ensor on a Rainy Sunday

The Dejected Lady

The Dejected Lady, James Ensor

Ensor on a Rainy Sunday

Outside it rains – with eyes attuned to greys I see the Ensor paintings at MOMA more clearly. And I think that Ostend must be a city of fogs for Ensor to know so well what colors would sing on a day such as today. What is interesting is what stops the light and what the light passes through. The light wraps around and dissolves its objects. Glasses, candlesticks, are as if removed, diminished by that which illuminates or eclipsed by those things deemed solid.

‘A Woman in Distress’, her disheveled form seems to displace the bedding she lays upon, as a weight would in a woolen bath the bedclothes spilling over the edge of the ornate wooden bed. In many of the early pictures, tablecloths, bedding, furniture – all seem to dissolve into the dark air and into the walls and the carpets so that all becomes waves of shifting patterns.

The light is at once solid and diffuse, and refers back to the hard geometry of the window panes whose glare at first blinds us – as it would if we entered such a space from another room more illuminated than this shady parlor. Slowly our eyes adjust and the shapes and forms diversify in the gloom. We see at first only what the light glances over and then at last we glean those persons and objects which Ensor obscures in shadow.

The light erases. The shadow devours. And yet by choosing our focus the eyes adjust and forms spill out from the gloom that the lamp licks over. The impartial daylight pricks the edges nearest the glass but is quickly extinguished in the plush and cluttered interiors – like noise is hushed in a padded room. The room absorbs what little light the day leaves into a sumptuous dark and velvet palette – green, grey and vermillion glow – grey becoming almost blue in the halflight, vermillion which is unlikely a true red and more likely brown but has such fire in the comparative dark, green – emerald which has its own heat. “On such a day one would need to be of solid emerald or ruby to burn with any flame and not merely dissolve in grey atoms in the universal grey,” as Virginia Woolf said on another such rainy day. Continue reading