Expo: James Ensor. Inspired by Brussels

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 until 2 June 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 between KBR and the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium.

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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 18 paintings, 24 drawings and 33 prints, “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.

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 that rocked the art world in the 19th century.

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 20 drawings by his hand. Unique, because Ensor’s drawn work is highly fragile and is therefore rarely exhibited.

With over 30 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!

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