Temporary exhibition: James Ensor: self-portraits

21/03/24 - 16/06/24

The self-portrait is of essential importance to Ensor and occupies a special place within his oeuvre.


The self-portrait that is created through the use of the mirror becomes a 'subjective' reflection. The painter as subject becomes the object of his own image. The self-portrait forms, as it were, a new mirror image, which is confronted with the mirrored person and the viewer. This form of mimesis is perhaps the most complex in the visual arts. Like Rembrandt, Ensor was aware of the paradoxical pictorial dilemma: 'How can I depict myself while portraying myself?' The self-portrait encourages reflection. Throughout his life, James Ensor will keep portraying  himself.

Ensor was taken by his self-image. His appearance has become clichéd and commonplace: the stately man with a white beard in his black cape. His visual language almost took on a life of its own and is paradigmatic for his highly personal view of his own (imaginary) world.