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Ensor revealed


Even 150 years after his birth, James Ensor (1860 - 1949) continues to fascinate. ING, the Royal Antwerp Fine Arts Museum (KMSKA) and the Brussels Fine Arts Museum (BOZAR) joined forces in order to show you the painter from Ostend in a new light. The exposition Ensor revealed set drawings against paintings in order to clarify the mental universe and the genesis of the masterpieces of this obstinate artist.

The exceptional richness of the collection of the museum of Antwerp was supplemented by several works from private and public collections. The works on show were a testament, first of all, to the extraordinary imagination of the artist, familiarising the public with his abundance of creativity. They also revealed some secret methods used by the "Prince among painters".

Ensor revealed takes the visitor into the artist's workshop, allowing the spectator to discover his thought processes and his artistic evolution. The exhibition was based around two main themes.

First of all, it showed that Ensor was one of the greatest realist painters of the 19th century. His still lifes, portraits, modern paintings and drawings proved that he wanted to compete with the old masters and with his contemporaries, and was successful in this quest. To illustrate this, the exhibition presented an exceptional selection of major works like The Oyster Eater or The Bourgeois Salon.

The exhibition looked more closely at the most original and innovative side of Ensor's work: his famous grotesque pictures and his masks, including masterpieces such as The Astonishment of the Mask WouseThe Intrigue or Skeletons Fighting over a Hanged Man.

Finally several major works, never before exhibited in public, have been added to the remarkable selection and illustrated the coherency of Ensor’s lively artistic career.

Besides the 60 paintings, over 140 drawings were shown, which constituted the key of Ensor's known works.


Copyright: Vincent Everarts

For the children



For children aged between 4 and 12, an area had been specially designed in the basement level of the exhibition. While their parents visited the exhibition, children could have fun, play, draw and create so as to discover the universe of James Ensor:


A real cabinet of curiosities had been created, filled with objects which could have been part of the artist's specific world, serving as sources of inspiration, in particular masks, chinoiseries and shells... Children could discover them, dress up and create their own still lives!


Through numerous photos and a previously unseen video, children could get to know this extraordinary artist. Who was he? How did he look?


One of the key elements in Ensor's work was light: children could discover this by playing with lamps and creating emotions in a specific atmosphere.

Next come sketches: Ensor spent a lot of time perfecting his drawing, and just like Ensor, children could apply themselves to drawing expressive faces.

Finally, the adjustments: James Ensor regularly went back over his works, adding new touches. In turn, children could modify one of James Ensor's works to their heart's content using magnets, and thus discover animated paintings.

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