Skull and Bones: The Haunted Art of James Ensor

In his very strange and compelling art, James Ensor created a world haunted by death and lit by fire

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Mrs. Simon Guggenheim Fund / Artists Rights Society New York / Sabam, Brussels

Masks Mocking Death, 1888

The Belgian painter James Ensor is the outsider artist who made it in. An isolated and splenetic man, contemptuous of both authority and the human herd, always feuding with the world and licking his wounds, he ended up all the same with money, royal honors and a secure if peculiar foothold in art history. There's a major Ensor show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City this summer. It focuses just on work from the two decades after 1880, when he was in his 20s and 30s, but, no surprise, those were the years we love him for,...

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