1860 – 1949
James Ensor (Belgian, born April 13, 1860 in Ostend – died November 19, 1949 in Ostend) is a painter and engraver who plays an important role in the expressionist and surrealist movements. Born in Belgium to English parents, Ensor studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts between 1877 and 1880. He began his artistic career as a portraitist and soon became involved in the avant-garde group Les Vingt, whose goal was to promote new artistic developments in Europe. Although Ensor is considered the leader and founder of the group, he does not share the same opinions as the other members of the group. The group was heavily criticized and dissolved ten years later.
Ensor is not only a talented colorist, he is also one of the greatest realists of the nineteenth century. From 1876 to 1884, he joined the mouvement plein air, predominant in European realism, far from moral, literary and aesthetic conventions. From 1885 to 1890, he was interested in the study of light combined with surrealist figures, in which he integrated social and autobiographical elements. His most famous works represent grotesque masked and funny characters, which serve as inspiration for German expressionists. Today, his works are part of the world’s largest collections, such as the Chicago Institute of Art, the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the MoMA in New York and the Koninklijk Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Belgium.