This unique painting is still in its original condition. Painted on panel, in good state of preservation, parquetted possibly during the 1950’s which at the time was done as a precaution but never proved necessary. The colours are fresh and support a vivacious and bright appearance of the subject matter. Details are well done and clearly visible. There is an overall very natural and fine craquelure consistent with its aging process. No retouching has taken place. The overall patina supports the beautiful atmosphere in this exquisite work. The painting has not been cleaned since its origin, the varnish may have been changed once during the past 90+ years.
This painting was titled: “La Sorcière” (H.P. Bremmer) and “La Femme Errante” (Lakenhal Leiden exhibition), before Xavier Tricot described it as “Le Pèlerin” (The Pilgrim).
James Ensor (1860–1949) was a major figure in the Belgian avant-garde of the late nineteenth century and an important precursor to the development of Expressionism in the early twentieth. Before 1887, Ensor often painted very informal, refined realistic studies, seascapes, landscapes, still lifes and modern-genre tableaux. In 1887, Ensor chose for a grotesque or satirical depiction of motifs for which he sought inspiration in the Bible, literature, history, contemporary social and artistic life, his personal life, the world of the carnival, commedia dell’arte and ballet. As a socially engaged and self-critical artist he was involved with the issues of his times and with contemporary debates on the very nature of modernism.
This expressive Pilgrim, painted in an Ensor-typical contrast-rich and vivid colouration, invite the viewer into the realm of liminal fantasy, where mystery and vagary become indistinguishable from reality.
Possibly directly from the artist to Galerie Wildenstein, Paris; private collection Spain; art dealer d’Audretsch, The Hague, 7 March 1940; acquired in the same year by a private Dutch family collection and by descent during three generations *; with Douwes Fine Art, Amsterdam, 2020. *According to the family the painting has been offered at the Sotheby’s Amsterdam Sale of 9 October 2000 lot no. 35, however it was withdrawn by the family during the auction due to inheritance issues at the time which have meanwhile been resolved.
Exposition Officielle d’Art Belge au Caire, 1931;
Paris, Gallerie Wildenstein;
Brussels, Palais des Beaux Arts, Exhibition ‘Ensor’, 1937;
Leiden, Lakenhal, Moderne Belgische kunst in Nederlands bezit, 1955, p. 11, cat.no. 23, “Femme Errante“, 1910 (not illustrated).
Xavier Tricot, James Ensor: leven en werk, oeuvrecatalogus van de schilderijen, Brussel 2009, p. 367, cat.no. 563 (illustrated in colour).
H.P. Bremmer, The Hague, 12 November 1941; Norbert Hostyn, Oostende, 16 januari 2019, with many thanks for his research.