James Ensor ( 1860-1949)

Ensor's imagery reflected one of the most bizarre and powerful visions of his era. He left his native Ostend to study painting (1877-80) at the Academie de Bruxelles. In Brussels he became one of the original members of "Les XX, a group of avant-garde artists, writers, and musicians. Ensor exhibited with them regularly until 1888, when his pictures, particularly the Entry of Christ into Brussels, were rejected as scandalous. While the public and press were at first hostile to his work, his paintings continued to be exhibited, and he gradually won worldwide acclaim. In 1929, Ensor was made a baron by King Albert. His home in Ostend became a museum after his death. His early style of painting is characterized by somber color, thick impasto, and an earthy realism with occasional hints of the fantastic. Toward 1883 his palette lightened, and by 1887 his paintings were flooded with intense light and strong color. From 1887 to 1900 he produced his most inventive and original work. Ensor's sources included the grotesque fantasies of Bosch, Bruegel, and Callot. Among his masterpieces is The Temptation of St. Anthony (Mus. of Modern Art, New York City). By 1900 the significant part of his work was finished; during the last 50 years of his life his paintings show hesitant draftsmanship and an absence of internal structure. Ensor ranks as one of the great innovators of the late 19th cent.; his art transformed reality, opening the way for surrealism.

Selected Paintings
Baroque and Rocco
Bulgarian Art
Russian Art
Other Links
Last Update January 27, 2002