James Ensor (Belgian, 1860–1949) was a painter and printmaker, and an important influence on Expressionism and Surrealism. Born in Brussels to English parents, Ensor studied at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts between 1877 and 1880. He began his artistic career as a portrait painter, but soon became involved with the avant-garde group Les XX (the twenty), whose goal was to promote new artistic developments in Europe. Although Ensor was considered the group’s leader and founder, he had sharp differences of opinion with other group members. In addition, the group was not well received by critics, and disbanded after a decade.

Ensor was not only a talented colorist, but also one of the great Realists of the 19th century. From 1876 to 1884, he adhered to the plein aire movement that was predominant in European Realism, absent of aesthetic, literary, and moral conventions. From 1885 until 1890, he experimented with studies of light combined with associative or surreal figures, in which he mixed autobiographical and social themes.

His most well-known works were his depictions of humorous masked figures and grotesque characters, which served as an inspiration for the German Expressionists.

Today, his work can be found in many prestigious institutions around the world, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, The Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Koninklijk Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Belgium.


Born in Ostend, Belgium.
Académie de Bruxelles
Died in Ostend, Belgium


Retrospective, Musée d'Orsay, Paris, France
James Ensor - Schrecken ohne Ende - Von der Heydt Museum, Wuppertal (solo)
Masquerade: the work of James Ensor - Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight (solo)
James Ensor: Paintings - Peter Freeman, Inc., New York City, NY (solo)
James Ensor - Fries Museum, Leeuwarden (solo)
Ensor's Graphic Modernism - The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA (solo)
James Ensor - Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt/Main (solo)
James Ensor - Mie Prefectural Art Museum, Tsu City (solo)
James Ensor - Radierungen aus der Sammlung Hegewisch und dem Kupferstichkabinett - Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg (solo)
Bitte nehmen Sie Platz, Herr Ensor! - MARTa Herford, Herford (solo)
James Ensor - Bestandsausstellung - Sprengel Museum Hannover, Hannover (solo)
James Ensor - Vision und Aufruhr - Quadrat Bottrop - Josef Albers Museum, Bottrop (solo)
James Ensor - vizionáø modernosti - Galerie výtvarného umìní v Chebu / Gallery of Visual Art in Cheb, Cheb (solo)
James Ensor - Tokyo Station Gallery, Tokyo (solo)
Between Street and Mirror - The Drawings of James Ensor - The Drawing Center, New York City, NY (solo)
James Ensor. Faggionato Fine Art. (December 4 - February 14) (solo)
James Ensor - Fred Jahn Studio - Kunsthandel, Munich (solo)
James Ensor - Museo d´Arte Moderna, Lugano (solo)
James Ensor 1860-1949 - Visionär der Moderne - Hachmeister Galerie, Münster (solo)
James Ensor - The Nagoya City Art Museum, Nagoya (solo)
James Ensor - Kunstverein Villa Wessel, Iserlohn (solo)
James Ensor - Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, Munich (solo)
James Ensor, retrospective organized by AIC and The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, N.Y.; exhibition supported in part by Belgian Ministry of Dutch Language, Culture and Education and endorsed by ambassador of Belgium to the U.S.A., His Excellency, Willy Van Cauwenberg; catalogue with essays by Frank Patrick Edebau of the Ostend Municipal Museums, Belgium, and guest curator for the exhibition David Farmer of Birmingham Museum of Art, AL, 33-34 (solo)
James Ensor - MoMA - Museum of Modern Art, New York City, NY (solo)

Public Collections

The University of Arizona Museum of Art, Tucson, AZ, USA
Fondation Pierre Gianadda, Martigny, Switzerland
Schaulager, Münchenstein / Basel, Switzerland
Tate Britain, London (England), UK
Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive BAM/PFA, Berkeley, CA, USA
MFA - Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA
The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA
Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, TX, USA
The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, MN, USA
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA, USA
Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, Tehran, Irael
Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Tel Aviv, Israel
Gallerie d´Arte Moderna di Udine GAMUD, Udine, Italy
Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art, Kobe, Japan
NMWA The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, Japan
Toyota Municipal Museum of Art, Toyota Aichi, Japan
Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, Netherlands
Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, Bilbao, Spain
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, Spain
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts - Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal, Montreal, Canada
Ateneum Art Museum, Helsinki, Finland
Musée d´Orsay, Paris, France
Wallraf-Richartz-Museum & Fondation Corboud, Cologne, Germany
Museum Folkwang Essen, Essen, Germany
Sprengel Museum Hannover, Hannover, Germany
Städtische Kunsthalle Mannheim, Mannheim, Germany
Neue Pinakothek, Munich, Germany
Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Stuttgart, Germany
Von der Heydt Museum, Wuppertal, Germany
Queensland Art Gallery / Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, Australia
Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten Antwerpen, Antwerp, Belgium
Musée Charlier, Brussels, Belgium
Dexia Art Gallery, Brussels, Belgium
Musée d´Art Moderne Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium
MDD - Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens, Deurle, Belgium
Museum voor Schone Kunsten Gent / Museum of Fine Arts Ghent, Gent, Belgium
MAMAC Musée d´Art Moderne et Contemporain, Liège, Belgium
Museum Voor Moderne Kunst (PMMK), Oostende, Belgium
Museu de Arte Moderna Murilo Mendes, Juiz de Fora, Brazil