Mark Pohlad reviews Temptation: The Demons of James Ensor at The Art Institute of Chicago, on view through January 25, 2015.
Pohlad writes: "Ensor’s six-foot-tall drawing 'The Temptation of Saint Anthony,' 1887, is the exhibition’s thematic and physical centerpiece, set like an altarpiece at the end of a dark, chapel-like corridor. It’s a dense tangle of scary figures and texts, and a teeming universe of references to the artist’s life. The Art Institute wisely bought it in 2006; it hasn’t been shown in sixty years. Composed of fifty-one separate sheets mounted on canvas, it’s a conservation triumph. Stylistically, it’s a cross between Northern Renaissance art and the cramped doodles of underground comics. Indeed, Ensor’s drawing-based art was expressed in almost every two-dimensional media, including the then-new manufactured color pencils."