A statue of James Ensor by Belgian sculptor Rik Wouters

Belgian artist James Ensor (1860-1949) is considered a precursor of 20th-century expressionism. And while expressionism is usually not associated with religious themes, Ensor’s most famous work, “Christ Enters into Brussels,” was centered around the figure of Jesus.

"Christ Enters into Brussels" (1888)

In “Christ Enters into Brussels” (1888) Ensor contrasts the humility of Jesus with the hypocrisy of political figures in 19th-century Brussels. The Belgian artist imagined his fellow citizens welcoming the return of Christ in 19th-century Brussels. Rather than directing their attention at Jesus, the crowd in Ensor’s painting seems to be preoccupied with seeing and being seen.

A painting of James Ensor with his iconic masked subjects by Belgian painter Henry De Groux