James Ensor

Het James Ensorhuis ©Toerisme Oostende vzw - James Ensorhuis - Nick Decombel Fotografie

James Ensor (1860–1949) is a key figure in the history of modern art. He pioneered several artistic movements. This Ostend native isn’t easily categorised.

James Ensor, North Sea pioneer

Ensor was an excellent practitioner of the impressionist philosophy, a talented colourist, created art that was full of humour and satire and had a marked love of the grotesque. While he loved to experiment, his art is easily identifiable. Ensor’s works combine international appeal with a unique style and subject matter, as can be seen from the characteristic elements that often recur in his paintings.

Carnival masks have a major presence. This dates back to Ensor’s childhood. He grew up in his parents’ Ostend souvenir shop, which sold such masks. They were later granted an important place in his oeuvre. Masked figures make an appearance in various pieces of his. The figure of death is another constant, as is a lurking aversion to the bourgeoisie and established values, despite his eventually becoming a baron himself.

Ensor - Self portrait with flower hat ©Mu.ZEE, www.lukasweb.be – Art in Flanders, foto Hugo Maertens
Het James Ensorhuis ©Toerisme Oostende vzw - James Ensorhuis - Nick Decombel Fotografie

Ostend plays an important role in Ensor’s creations. Throughout his career, he found inspiration in the sea’s many and various hues. He is also inextricably bound to the city itself. He was born and spent almost all of his life here. It is where he finally breathed his last after a career spanning 70 years in which he gave some 850 paintings to the world.

The Queen of seaside resorts remains this grand master’s home to this day. His residence for the last 30 years of his life has been renamed Ensor House and is now a unique piece of heritage with a splendid visitor centre. Nearby Mu.ZEE grants an additional glimpse into his life and work.

Much of his rich body of work has also found its way into major museums around the world. Still, Flanders offers the best introduction to his greatness. The Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp (KMSKA) has the largest Ensor collection in the world and the Royal Museums of Fine Arts in Brussels (KMSKB) have a fair amount of his work on display. The museums Plantin-Moretus, Dhondt-Dhaenens and the Museum of Fine Arts (MSK) in Ghent have also continued to spread his message to the world.

Ensor in Flanders

Ensor’s home is and remains in Ostend. Explore the life of this modern North Sea Master and discover his legacy in Flanders’ art palaces. From Ostend to Antwerp, from Brussels to Ghent. Ensor dazzles, at any time and everywhere.

KMSKA De intrige JEnsor  ©KMSKA

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