Ensor in Flanders

The James Ensor house - Ostend ©Westtoer
Ensor’s home is and remains was 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.

Ensor House

To truly get to know the great James Ensor, a visit to Ostend is essential. The Queen of seaside resorts is linked to this pioneer of modern art forevermore. This is where Ensor House is located, for example. Ensor lived and worked there for the final 30 years of his life. Many of his masterpieces were created here. Now the house is a museum, recently restored to full glory. A permanent exhibition and temporary, interactive displays enable exploration of this great artist’s occasionally eventful life and influential work. Nowhere can you get closer to Ensor than here.

Het James Ensorhuis ©Toerisme Oostende vzw - James Ensorhuis - Nick Decombel Fotografie
Ensor - Spilliaert Museumvleugel 06 ©Steven Decroos - Mu.ZEE Ostend


Of course, Mu.ZEE in Ostend also honours Ensor. This museum has an impressive collection of modern and contemporary works of art. Mu.ZEE owns 28 paintings by Ensor, including the iconic Self-Portrait with Flowered Hat, as well as countless drawings, etchings and lithographs. This wealth receives special attention in its Ensor and Spilliaert museum wing, dedicated to the master and to his fellow citizen and artist, Léon Spilliaert.

Royal Museums of Fine Arts in Brussels (KMSKB)

Ensor will go down in history as an Ostend native, but he also had a close bond with Brussels. At 17 he travelled to the capital to complete his artistic training. He would later join the innovative artist group Les Vingt there. The city continues to bear traces of Ensor’s spirit. The Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium in Brussels (KMSKB) have dozens of his works on display. In addition, smaller (private) museums in Brussels such as the Van Buuren and Ixelles Museum display their own works by Ensor with pride.


Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp (KMSKA)

Ensor lovers travelling from Ostend to Brussels should be sure to plan a stop in Antwerp. The Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp (KMSKA) has the world’s largest Ensor collection, an artistic goldmine. In addition to a wealth of drawings and sketches, there are no fewer than 38 paintings at the KMSKA, including unparalleled masterpieces such as The Intrigue and The Skeleton Painter. After a thorough renovation of the museum, this artistic wealth has been granted a special Ensor Hall.

KMSKA 2022 Facade - (c) Karin Borghouts
Museum Plantin Moretus ©Filip Dujardin

Plantin-Moretus Museum, Antwerp

A bit further on in the city is the Plantin-Moretus Museum. The museum is located in the former home of a leading family of printers. In addition to a handful of paintings by Rubens, it also has an impressive Print Room. This contains no fewer than 188 prints and 13 drawings by Ensor’s hand. Due to conservational restrictions they are only occasionally on show. The full collection can be viewed digitally in the Print Room archives.When the pieces do see daylight, they are in good company, flanked by drawings by artists such as Bruegel and contemporary master Luc Tuymans.

Museum of Fine Arts, Ghent

Located in between Ensor’s birthplace of Ostend and the great cities of Brussels and Antwerp, there is Ghent. This art city, too, has an excellent selection of Ensor’s work on display. The Museum of Fine Arts (MSK) possesses five of his paintings. One is the masterpiece Old Lady with Masks. This canvas is considered one of the highlights of Ensor’s so-called fantastical period, in which the carnival masks from his childhood took on a leading role. 

MSK - Ghent

A significant portion of Ensor’s impressive oeuvre has found its way to major museums all over the world. Even so, it is easiest to get to know his iconic life’s work here, in Flanders’ rich museums. A journey through Ensor’s life is a journey through Flanders.

James Ensor in Situ


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