Ensor and Ostend. They are inextricably linked. But did you know that Brussels played a crucial role in how Ensor developed as an artist too? In the exhibition “James Ensor. Inspired by Brussels”, you will discover how the city helped to shape Ensor’s quirky and characteristic visual language. From 22 February 2024, dive into the imaginary world of one of the greatest Belgian artists. Discover paintings and graphical work in a place where Ensor was often to be found during his Brussels years: the Palace of Charles of Lorraine.
This exhibition is a collaboration by KBR and the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium and displays well-known works on canvas, as well as hidden treasures on paper.Buy your ticket
Did you know that KBR and the Royal Museum of Fine Arts (RMFAB) were the first public institutions to purchase work by James Ensor? As early as 1892, KBR’s Prints Department purchased 25 of the Ostend master’s etchings. Three years later, in 1895, the RMFAB acquired an early masterpiece by the artist: “The Lamplighter” (1880). With over 20 paintings, 30 drawings and 40 etchings, “James Ensor. Inspired by Brussels” now brings together an exceptionally large number of original works by the master in a unique historical setting.
Beyond the mask
James Ensor was much more than a mask-painter. His oeuvre is, technically and thematically, exceptionally diverse. The paintings, drawings and prints show a wide range of styles and topics: realism and symbolism, portraits and still-lifes, masks and monsters.
In the exhibition “James Ensor. Inspired by Brussels”, they are complemented by carefully selected period documents, such as posters from the salons and correspondence by Ensor and his correspondents.
During this exhibition, you will be introduced to some famous paintings, such as Ensor’s first mask scene “The Annoyed Masks” and “Russian Music”, an atmospheric salon piece that earned Ensor an argument with former classmate Khnopff.
The 19th century Museum of Modern Art lives again
The exhibition is taking place in the magnificent rooms of the Palace of Charles of Lorraine. This is no coincidence. In Ensor’s time, this was where the Museum of Modern Art was based. The artist exhibited high-profile artworks there from 1887, along with such art circles as “Les XX” and “La Libre Esthétique”. The historic palace, where the KBR’s temporary exhibitions are now taking place, was the meeting place for the avant-garde in the 19th century. An avant-garde that rocked the art world.
Ensor as never before
Admire some works never before exhibited from the extensive oeuvre of James Ensor and discover several less well-known aspects of his work. The exhibition thus offers a rare opportunity to discover 30 drawings by his hand. Unique, because Ensor’s drawn work is highly fragile and is therefore rarely exhibited.
A highlight is the socially motivated drawing “Belgium in the 19th century” – a sharp critique of the political situation under King Leopold II. The artist also gained fame for the brilliant prints that he had printed in Brussels.
With over 40 etchings, the exhibition “James Ensor. Inspired by Brussels” offers a representative selection from Ensor’s graphical work. Several prints are also reunited with their draft drawings and printing forms. This will give you an exceptional insight into Ensor’s creative process.
From 22 February until 2 June 2024.
- Open from Tuesday until Sunday between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.
- Closed on Mondays and certain bank holidays (Easter and Easter Monday, 1 May, Ascension Day, Whit Monday)
Tickets and prices
- Standard: € 15
- Concessions: € 11
- 65+, students, groups > 15, Cultuursmakers, Davidsfonds
- <18 years, museumPASSmusées, Belgian teachers (Lerarenkaart/carte PROF), visitors with a disability (+ 1 accompanying adult), jobseekers, ICOM card, Belspo card
Location & accessibility
KBR – Mont des Arts 28, 1000 Brussels.
- Both the building and the exhibition space are accessible for visitors with disabilities.
- Holders of a disabled parking permit can find parking spaces in front of the building, at Boulevard de l’Empereur 4.
- KBR is accessible by public transport as well as by car and bicycle.
- Use the SNCB code on your online ticket to buy a Discovery Ticket and travel to Brussels-Central and back with a 50% discount.
Enjoying an experience together makes the occasion doubly pleasurable! So why not come along with your club, family or friends to the “James Ensor. Inspired by Brussels” exhibition? Take a guided tour or follow an interactive lecture before setting out together to discover the influence of Brussels on the art of James Ensor.Discover the offer