Ostend Fisherman – Rare 1st State

James Ensor (1860-1949), Ostend Fisherman, etching and drypoint, 1900, signed in pencil, dated lower right, titled lower left, countersigned and titled verso [also signed in the plate, and with the word Ostend]. References: Elesh 123, Taevernier 118, Delteil 118. First state (of 2). In good condition (slight toning, prior hinging verso, slight rubbing top verso, including a lovely fingerprint lower right margin edge), with full margins, 5 5/8 x 4, the sheet 10 1/4 x 9 1/4 inches.

A fine impression of this great rarity (we do not know of other impressions on the market).  Printed in black on a cream/tan  simile Japon paper.  The impressions pictured in Elesh, Delteil, etc., are of the second state.

This first state print is delicately printed; the composition is complete but in the second state the print is reworked rather heavily to produce a darker image.

Ensor was interested in the fishermen of Ostende from an early age.  This etching is surely based on a charcoal drawing Ensor made in the early 1880’s; another version was also made by his friend Willy Finch (Tournai, Musee des Beaux Arts). This etching shows a fisherman posing in Ensor’s studio, far from the natural environment which would have been the subject for most other artists. The style is of course close to that of many of Rembrandt’s etching portraits which Ensor studied and copied in his early years.