STREET VIEW: THE EXPRESSIVE FACE OF THE PUBLIC IN JAMES ENSOR'S 1888 CHRIST'S ENTRY INTO BRUSSELS IN 1889 AND ERNST LUDWIG KIRCHNER'S 1913-15 STRASSENBILDER SERIES
This thesis analyzes in tandem James Ensor's 1888 Christ's Entry into Brussels in 1889 and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner's 1913-15 Strassenbilder series. Current interpretations of these paintings often emphasize a narrative reading of the artists' personal expressions of the struggle of the individual against the angst and dysfunction of society. I explore the artists' visualizations of the modern urban street and the individual in a crowd. In addition, I contextualize the environment of rapid modernization and fin-de-siècle anxiety, and the anti-institutionalism of Les XX and the Brücke. This thesis challenges the assumptions upon which current art-historical interpretations are constructed by examining the artists' work within contemporary cultural discourse, crowd theory, and sociological scholarship, and through close visual readings of the artists' formal strategies. I argue that Ensor and Kirchner deployed conscious aesthetic strategies in compositional distortion, antithesis and masquerade to explore the conflicting impulses, contumacy, and ambiguity of the modern moment.
NotesDegree awarded: M.A. Art. American University
Degree grantorAmerican University. Department of Art