James Ensor and Léon Spilliaert. Two Masters of Ostend
Ostend and James Ensor are inextricably linked. Ensor loved Ostend: the city served as his muse and inexhaustible source of inspiration. He loved it for its crowds, the tempestuous North Sea, the carnival that painted the streets in festive colours each year. The name of the painter Léon Spillaert, twenty years his junior, is also connected with this Queen of Seaside Resorts. His nocturnal rambles through the city and long walks along the beach spurred him to create his best works, dark and suffused with mystery. Although Ensor and Spilliaert were very different as artists, their names are often mentioned in the same breath.
In Two Masters of Ostend, the museum aims, above all, to allow the masterworks that are the highlights of its collection to speak for themselves. Behind every work of art or document in our archives you will find a myriad of anecdotes and tales featuring and recounting the lives of people such as the judge Eugène Demolder, writer Edgar Allan Poe, scientist Ernest Rousseau, bacteriologist Mariette Hannon-Rousseau, artist Willy Finch, writer and art critic Emile Verhaeren, poet and director of the ‘Kursaal’ (casino) Henri Vandeputte, the patron and music lover Emma Lambotte, Brussels publisher Edmond Deman, art promoter and gallery owner Paul-Gustave Van Hecke, art critic and artist Théodore Hannon, philosopher Walter Benjamin, author Stefan Zweig, composer Richard Wagner, the French writers Honoré de Balzac and Alfred Jarry and the film-maker Henri Storck, to name but a few. They take us back to the Ostend of a bygone era, reflected in the city as it is today.