You are here

Ostend, the city of James Ensor

...and James Ensor, the painter from Ostend.

The famous painter (1860–1949) and his city are inextricably linked and Ostend makes a substantial effort to ensure they always will be. Which is a good thing too! We can't think of a better place to keep the legacy of this Symbolist, a major innovator in the Belgian contemporary art world, alive. Curious? Then follow us!

ensorhuis

Parfum van Oostende

Digital Walk: At home with Ensor

Ostend is simply teeming with references to Ensor. The artist himself takes us on a tour of his beloved city during a digital city walk, called "The Scent of Ostend”. He shows visitors a different side of Ostend, allowing them to discover the city as seen through the master's eyes. Download the audio guide to your iPod. Your guides are the voices of Belgian actors Wim Opbrouck and Els Dottermans.

Visit the Ensor House

In the Ensor House, we feel strangely like voyeurs as we listen in on Ensor's discussions with artists, poets and writers. The many instruments around the house show how passionate he was about music while the colourful collection of dolls, puppets, masks and vases is representative of his painting style.

In Ensor's studio, meanwhile, we look around and try to imagine that this is the place where artworks were created, which, 100 years later, are coveted and admired all over the world, from Amsterdam to Zurich, from the Guggenheim in New York to the Musée d'Orsay in Paris!

 

Mu.ZEE: Self-portrait with flowered hat

Actually the only thing missing in Ensor's house is his art! All the artworks on display are reproductions. But don't worry, in Mu.ZEE, Ostend’s art museum, you can see several Ensors, the masterpieces in the museum's collection.

You can never separate Ensor from Ostend

We continue our walk, Ensor umbrella in hand, which we purchased in the nice museum shop. Our walk ends in the Church of Our Lady of the Dunes, on the fringe of the city. Ensor is buried in the churchyard of this church, in accordance with his wishes. The locals also call it the Ensor Church.

What a phenomenal man James Ensor was. He chose to live in Ostend, embittered and disappointed by the bourgeoisie after several unhappy years in Brussels.

You can never separate Ensor from Ostend.