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James Ensor. an overview. The Family. Mother : Maria Catharina Haegheman. Father : James Frederik ENSOR. Biography : James Sidney Ensor. Birth : Ostend : 13 April 1860 Dead : Ostend : 19 November 1949

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james ensor

James Ensor


the family
The Family
  • Mother:
  • Maria Catharina Haegheman
  • Father :
  • James Frederik ENSOR
biography james sidney ensor
Biography:James Sidney Ensor
  • Birth : Ostend : 13 April 1860
  • Dead : Ostend : 19 November 1949
  • Nationality : Britischin 1929 Belgian (withaneye on obtainingthe title of baron.
  • The Family operated a souvenir andcuriosity shop in Ostendandboarded rooms out tosummerguests.
  • The youngEnsorattendedthe College of the Blessed Virgin in Ostend.
  • The women in Ensor’s life : around 1888 Ensorwould meet Augusta Bogaerts withwhom he maintained a lifelongrelationship, though without ever living togetherwith her
1876 80 training
1876-80: training
  • 1876: attenteddrawinglessons at the localdrawingschool

Painteddozens of small nature studies on pink cardboard

  • 1877–1880 : he studied at the academy in Brussels.

He receivedlessonsfrom the Director, Jean Portales, amongothers. FernardKhnopff, Theo Van Rysselberghe, Willy Finchandotherfuture members of the exhibitionassociations, 'Essorand Les Vingt, wereamong his fellow students.

In Brussels, he met the poet and art criticThéoHannon, whointroducedhimto the liberalcircles of Ernest Rousseau, professor at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, and his youngerspouse, the nature expert Mariette Rousseau Hannon.

The home of the Rousseau couple was a meeting place for the artistic, literaryandscientific elite of the time.

The contactsthatEnsor had there-where he probably met Félicien Rops and Eugène Demolderandothers-stimulated his artisticandintellectualdevelopment.

  • 1886–1889 : Ensorwouldrework a number of his academicpieces intogrotesqueproductions.
1880 84 debut
1880-84: debut
  • In 1880 Ensorinstalled a studio in the attic of his parents‘ home in Ostendwhere he wouldworkeverynowandthen in the company of Willy Finch. Although he lived in Ostenduntil his death, he regularlystayed in Brussels andactivelyparticipated in the artistic life of the capitalcity. With the exception of a few excursionsto London, Holland and Paris, Ensorscarcelytraveled.
  • In 1881, he debutedwith the progressive Brussels art circle, La Chrysalide. He quciklybecamerecognisedbyfriendandenemyalike as one of the prominent artists of the time. His seascapes, stilllifes, naturalisticfigure pieces andtableauxfrom the life of the young, modern bourgeois woman, such as the celebratedThe Oyster-eaterfrom 1882, unquestionablybelongto the major works of the European Realismandplein airemovements.
  • In 1883 Ensor, alongwith a few olderstudents of the Brussels‘ academy, would take leave of the artists‘ associationL'Essor. Theyestablished the artists‘ association Les Vingt. Thiswillplayan important role in the dissemination of variousinternationalavant-gardemovements.
early successes
  • In 1893 Ensorfruitlessly set himselfagainst the dissolution of the art circle Les Vingt. OctaveMaus, secretary of Les Vingt, founded the exhibitionassociationLa Libre Esthétique. Ensor was regularlycourtedbyLa Libre Esthétique. The Print Room of the Royal Library in Brussels purchased a large number of etchings in 1893, followedoneyear later by the Kupferstichkabinett Museum of Prints andDrawings in Dresden and in 1899 byAlbertina of Vienna. The rumourthat in 1893 Ensor had offeredunsuccessfullytosell the complete contents of his studio for 8.500 Belgian Francs (BEF) has never been documentedandappearsunlikely in light of his growing commercial success. In 1895, Ensorsuccessfullysolicited the Minister of Internal Affaires for the purchase of The Lamps (1880, oil on canvas) for the National Museum (the present-day Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium in Brussels). Ensorasked 2.500 BEF for the work. In 1897, he againsuccessfullyasked the citygovernment of Ostendtopurchase a painting for the City Museum. Ostendpaid 2.000 BEF for Sick Wretch Warming Himself (1882, oil on canvas, destroyed in 1940). Ensorparticipated more actively in the localartistic life in Ostendandbecamechair of theCercle des Beaux-Arts, which he established.
  • Ensor‘sartisticrejuvenation was noticedbyGermanartistsandcriticsaround 1900. Alfred Kubin, Paul Klee, Emil Nolde, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Georg Grosz, Herbert vonGarvens-Garvensburg or WilhemFraengerunderstoodthat 'lepeintre des masks‘(the painting of masks) radicallybrokewith the classical West-European artisticvaluesandtraditions.
  • He was alsorecognised in Belgium as one of the pioneers of Modern Art. François Franckand the admirerswhowere members of the AntwerpexhibitionassociationL'Art contemporainwouldsuccessfullypromoteEnsor‘swork, both at home andabroad.
thematic collection presentation
Thematic Collection Presentation
  • Humor
  • Playingwith light, lightingstudy
  • Christ
  • Interiors
  • The skeletonmotif
  • Masks
  • Marines
  • Cityscapes
  • Stil lifes(ingredients for a meal)
  • Self-portraits

From1886 onwards, humourbecomesan important element in James Ensor‘swork.

Clearly, Ensordidnotsit well with the lawyers, physicians, artists, criticsand power figures of his time.

playing with light lighting study
Playingwith light, lightingstudy.

Ensorspokeabout light as itwere a living essence. 'I have no child, but light is mydaughter, the light, oneandindivisible‘.Ensor‘s studies of the sea, the dunes, interiorsand even his portraits are for the most part studies of light effects, whereby light sometimesplays a domineering, as in the citation, andalsodisruptiverole.


In the first place, he chose subjects in whichdaemonscouldplay a leadingrole.From the onset, he chose for a humourousapproach, betray anti-clericalandsocially-criticalintentions. According toportraitsandinscriptions, Ensoralluded in these worksto the politicalandsocialquestionswithwhich his time was concerned.


The figureswhopopulate his interiorsdetermine the highlysuggestiveclimate in which, on the one hand is calmandintimate, yet on the other hand is busy, tormentedand the fascination for light comes in play.

the skeleton motif
The skeletonmotif

In theirworks, reality was in conflict with the dream; the body with the soul, reasonwithmadness. The personages weredrivenby the fear for death.


Ensor found inspiration for his masks in his family‘s souvenir shops, in the Ostendcarnivalprocessions. The happy, carnivalesquefiguresconceal the visage of thosewhoEnsor had for so long alreadymenaced, dominated, tormentedandbeguiled. Masksandcaricatures gave him the opportunity toexpress his non- conformityandto vent his frustration.

self portraits

There are few artistswhosofrequentlyand in somany different waysreproducedtheirown image.