James Ensor was born in Ostend, Belgium, in 1860. In 1873 he set up a studio in the attic of his parents’ home and began studying art, first with local artists and then, starting in 1876, at the academy in Ostend. In 1877 he enrolled in the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Brussels; Fernand Khnopff was one of his classmates. In 1880 Ensor moved back from Brussels to Ostend, where he would remain except for brief trips to Holland, England, France and Brussels. In that same year he met Félicien Rops. In 1883 he became a member of the Belgian group Les XX, with which he would subsequently exhibit his work. On his travels in the following year he studied works by Francisco de Goya, Gustave Courbet and Jean-François Millet, and he later admired the paintings of William Turner. In 1885 Ensor’s style changed from realism to a symbolic imagery. In 1887 he became seriously ill and increasingly focused on death and the mask motif in his works. After the turn of the century Ensor enjoyed increasing public attention and recognition. During the First World War he produced a caricature of Kaiser Wilhelm II as a vulture and was promptly arrested by the Germans. In 1917 Ensor moved to the home of his uncle, which he gradually turned into a private museum. He was represented at the 15th Venice Biennale in 1926. Ensor died in Ostend in 1949.