James Ensor in bird’s-eye view: let’s hear it from the fans!

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. 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.

Seeking the sublime

Ensor once wrote: ‘I have an aversion to the banal, because what I seek is the sublime’. He found it too: in the weird and grotesque as well as the beautiful and spectacular. In both the small and the large.

Conquering Brussels

Ensor studied in Brussels, the heart of the Belgian art world, which he slowly but surely conquered. He was one of the founders of the anti-academic artists’ collective Les XX (The Twenty), which organized major exhibitions each year, featuring works by the likes of Pissarro, Monet, Van Gogh and Cézanne. And it goes without saying that Ensor himself was very much present too, with a lot of work and grand speeches.

I have an aversion to the banal, because what I seek is the sublime.

James Ensor

High-profile member of the avant-garde

Ensor was constantly looking to innovate. He wanted to be a key figure in the avant-garde and couldn’t stand it when his exceptional talent was not sufficiently appreciated. So he inevitably clashed with certain conservative art lovers and critics who felt that a two-metre-high canvas of a woman eating oysters was rather overdoing it.

Tom en Tim Van Laere
Fans Tom and Tim Van Laere sing James Ensor’s praises

Ensor: as inspiring as ever

Ensor became a cult figure among the modernists from around 1900, since when he has been a constant inspiration to other artists. Gallery owner Tim Van Laere knows exactly what makes young artists’ hearts skip a beat. He tells us why James Ensor is such a big influence today on post-modern artists from New York to Berlin.

The Admiral pays tribute

Tim’s brother Tom Van Laere – better known as the musician Admiral Freebee – is an Ensor fan too. He has written a homage to the artist, which we get to show you for the first time. The Admiral rounds off our video triptych in praise of James Ensor.

More Ensor: Off with the masks!

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.

Watch the first episode

More Ensor: A peek inside the artist’s kitchen

In the second instalment of our video series devoted to James Ensor, we pay a visit to the conservation studio and discover more about James Ensor’s creative process from the people at the Ensor Research Project.

Watch the second episode


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


The museum has sought to identify and notify all copyright holders in the case of reproductions from other collections. If you nevertheless think that an owner or copyright holder has been incorrectly or incompletely identified, please contact us.