James Ensor in bird’s-eye view: off with the masks!

Our Ensor collection is one of the KMSKA’s greatest treasures. It truly is a goldmine – the largest ensemble of the artist’s work anywhere in the world. James Ensor has gone down in history as the painter of masks, yet he was much more than that. In the first episode of our Ensor video series, curator Herwig Todts takes off the masks. And we also pay a visit to Ostend, where Ensor was born, walked his dogs and eventually died.

Ensor in the light of his time

Art in the 20th century worked with light, colour and form as its visual means: artists used them freely, disregarding reality when it suited them. Herwig Todts, our Ensor expert, describes how the painter combined the irrational world of Symbolism, from which reality is absent, with the pure colours of the Impressionists.

Ensor in the light of Ostend

All roads leading to Ensor lead to Ostend too. He was born there and lived and worked in a house in Vlaanderenstraat – what we now know as the James Ensor House. Xavier Tricot is an artist, art connoisseur and above all an Ostender. He talks about Ensor’s evolution from an insecure young man to a true bon vivant who hosted the intellectual heavyweights of the time in his native city.

Ensor is known as the painter of masks. But his work is so much richer than that.

Herwig Todts

Ensor in the light of his myth

No artist promoted himself as much as James Ensor, who pops up constantly in his own work. As Christ, a skeleton, a knight or in the company of his friends. Ensor was an immensely versatile artist too – not only a painter, but also a draughtsman, etcher and even a composer. We head out into the dunes in search of light – which the childless Ensor called his ‘daughter’ – with the artist and Ensor fan Koen Broucke.

Episode 2

In the next episode we pay a visit to the Ensor Research Project. We learn a huge amount about the artist’s creative process by immersing ourselves in his work, while simultaneously getting to know Ensor himself in an entirely different way.

Watch the second episode

Episode 3

In this final instalment of our video series on James Ensor, we take a closer look at the man as an artist. And give some of his fans the chance to sing his praises.

Watch the third episode


A Mals Media production for the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp (KMSKA)


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