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Flemish Master James Ensor is an innovator, a gamechanger. His art is indispensable to understand the origins and development of modernism during the 20th century. He belongs to the small company of European avant-garde artists who, in a loosely connected group at the end of the 19th century, liberated painting from romantic heroism, appearances and banal realism. Ensor's view of humanity is sometimes light-hearted, often pessimistic but just as often lyrical and hilarious. By using imagery, form and colour autonomously and detached from reality, he has created images in which an accurate representation of reality becomes secondary.

In 2024, it will be 75 years since the passing of James Ensor (1860 – 1949). Join us in celebrating the life of this renowned Flemish Master with various exhibitions, activities and events in Ostend, Brussels and Antwerp.

Unmissable Ensor experiences

Ensor - Spilliaert Museumvleugel 04 ©Steven Decroos - Mu.ZEE Ostend
Het James Ensorhuis © Toerisme Oostende vzw - James Ensorhuis - Nick Decombel Fotografie
KMSKA_2022_Facade © Karin Borghouts
Het James Ensorhuis © Toerisme Oostende vzw - James Ensorhuis - Nick Decombel Fotografie

Ensor & Ostend

James Ensor was born in Ostend  in 1860 and died in the city by the sea in 1949. In 2024, that will be 75 years ago. He lived and worked in Ostend his entire life. The image of the eccentric, misunderstood hermit in a draughty attic in Ostend in a myth. He enjoyed participating in the cultural and social life of his hometown. Ostend remains the place where the myth of Ensor continues to come alive, not only in the Ensor House but also elsewhere in the city or overlooking the North Sea. For Ensor, Ostend was 'the queen of fickle seas, of soft sands and skies laden with gold and opal'.

Ensor & Antwerp

Thanks to a group of wealthy Antwerp enthusiasts as well as determined museum curators, the KMSKA (Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp) has had the broadest Ensor collection in the world since the 1920s. That collection has gradually grown into an ensemble of 39 paintings and 650 drawings and includes no less than 10 masterpieces. An unmissable ensemble that has a central and crucial place in KMSKA's new collection presentation in 6 rooms. What Van Gogh is to Amsterdam (where he barely spent a few months), Ensor is to Antwerp, for 'Antwerp is (to him) the most hospitable of all mothers.' KMSKA is also conducting an in-depth study of Ensor's creative processes together with the Department of Conservation Science and natural Sciences at the University of Antwerp: the Ensor Research Project.

Ensorzaal KMSKA © Karin Borghouts
Kunstberg, Brussels

Ensor & Brussels

Although James Ensor is inextricably linked to his beloved hometown of Ostend, Brussels also played a vital role in his life and career. Ensor studied there for three years at the Royal Academy. Fernand Khnopff and other up-and-coming talents were among his fellow students. He returned to Ostend, but would maintain a special bond with the capital throughout his life, exhibiting and staying there several times.

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