Artist biography

James Ensor 1860-1949

Belgian painter and etcher, born in Ostend of an English father and a Flemish mother. Studied at the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Brussels 1877-80; spent the rest of his life at Ostend. Began by making paintings of middle-class interiors with one or two figures and with studies of effects of light, soon heightening the colour. Developed by 1885-6 a highly personal fantastic style with grotesque mask-like figures, skeletons, etc., as a satire on the stupidities of human existence. His large picture 'The Entry of Christ into Brussels' was refused by Les XX in 1889 and his work aroused violent opposition. A one-man exhibition of his work in Paris in 1898 under the auspices of La Plume marked the beginning of his international reputation. He was later much admired by the German Expressionists. Remained a British subject until 1929, when he took Belgian nationality and was created a baron. Died at Ostend.

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, p.202