Intrigue: James Ensor by Luc Tuymans

Ensor's gloriously surreal work is seen through the eyes of one of today’s leading painters.

James Ensor, The Intrigue, 1890 Photo © Royal Museum for Fine Arts Antwerp

James Ensor, The Intrigue, 1890

Resisting the draw of the artistic metropolises of the time, James Ensor lived for most of his life in the Belgian seaside town of Ostend where he had been born. His work was an important influence on the major international players of Expressionism and Surrealism – such as Paul Klee and George Grosz – yet its roots can be found in his coastal home. 

Ensor was fascinated by the array of unusual souvenirs his mother sold in her curio shop for the town's annual carnival, and it was these masks, puppets and oddites – and the related local rituals – that would form the subject matter of much of his work. As he progressed as an artist his style increasingly tended towards the bizarre and he would dress up skeletons in his studio in order to compose theatrical tableaux that he could then capture in paint.

This first exhibition of Ensor's work in almost 20 years is curated by contemporary artist and fellow Belgian Luc Tymans, whose creative practice is similarly experimental. Tuymans' personal selection reflects this affinity.

Read Fisun Güner's interview with Luc Tuymans in the autumn issue of Art Quarterly, available exclusively to National Art Pass holders.

Venue details

Royal Academy of Arts Burlington House, Piccadilly London W1J 0BD 020 7300 8000

Entry details

£9 with National Art Pass (standard entry £10)

Mon – Thu, Sat – Sun, 10am – 6pm
Fri, 10am – 10pm

Closed 23 Jun, 24 – 26 Dec

Book online via the Royal Academy website