James Ensor

Dates1860 - 1949
BornOstend, Belgium
DiedOstend, Belgium

Except for three years studying history and religious painting at the Brussels academy, James Ensor, a Belgian painter, printmaker, and draftsman, lived in Ostend, Belgium, all his life. 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 throughout Europe. Although Ensor was considered the group's leader and founder, he had sharp differences of opinion with other group members. Art critics treated the group harshly, and Les XX disbanded after a decade.

In the mid-1880s, Ensor suffered from an ulcer and from a personal crisis: his family forbade him to marry the woman he loved. He returned to painting religious subjects and plunged to the depths of despair when he decided to sell the contents of his studio in the 1890s. After the turn of the century, Ensor finally won acclaim and respectability. He was knighted and given the title of Baron. The 1908 publication of a book about his life and works confirmed his standing and reputation. In later years, he wrote music, designed sets for ballets, and continued to paint until his death at eighty-nine.