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James Ensor - Belgian Artist From Art History

Art History - Historical Artists > E > James Ensor

belgian artist james ensor
Intrigue. 1911
Oil on canvas

belgian artist james ensor
Masks Confronting Death.
1888. Oil on canvas, 32 x 39 1/2"
(81.3 x 100.3 cm)

belgian artist james ensor
Tribulations of Saint Anthony.
1887. Oil on canvas, 46 3/8 x 66"
(117.8 x 167.6 cm)

Historical Artist - James Ensor (1860 - 1949)

James Ensor was a Belgian painter and printmaker who had an important influence on expressionism and surrealism. James Ensor lived in Ostend for almost his entire life. James Ensor’s focus on morbid subjects such as skulls and corpses in his early work incited criticism from the public. Although his paintings became more traditional later in his life, Ensor is noted for those earlier paintings because of their significance in the transition from Symbolism to Surrealism.

James Ensor's father was of English extraction, and his mother was Flemish. He left school at the age of fifteen to begin artistic training with two local painters and From 1877 to 1880, James Ensor studied at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts. He first exhibited his work in 1881.

James Ensor's early works depict realistic scenes in a somber style but his palette subsequently brightened and he started favouring increasingly bizarre subject matter. Such paintings as The Scandalized Masks (1883) and Skeletons Fighting over a Hanged Man (1891) feature figures in grotesque masks inspired by the ones sold in his mother's gift shop for Ostend's annual Carnival.

During the late 1800s much of James Ensor's work was rejected as scandalous. By 1920 he was the subject of major exhibitions; in 1929 the Belgian composer Flor Alpaerts completed the "James Ensor Suite", and Ensor was named a Baron by King Albert.

James Ensor is considered to be an innovator in 19th century art, and to have influenced Klee, Emil Nolde, and other expressionist and surrealist painters of the 20th century. James Ensor's works are prominently featured in the Modern Art Museum of the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium in Brussels, and exhibited in the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp. A collection of his letters is held in the Contemporary Art Archives of the Royal Museums of Fine Arts in Brussels.

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