As a student at the Brussels Art Academy, James Ensor (1860-1949) demonstrated a precocious talent. He already exhibits in 1878 and the works he made in the early 1880s, when he was in his twenties, are those for which he is still best-known today. Initially, Ensor followed the realism that prevailed at the time, and preferred a dark colour palette. In 1883, he was one of the co-founders of the illustrious Brussels avant-garde group 'Les vingt', of which he was soon considered one of the influential members. Ensor's work stood out immediately, on account of his novel ideas, his experiments with perspective and relief, and the great bravura with which he practised the technique of painting with the palette knife. Ensor had a big influence on his fellow contemporaries. Towards the end of the 1880s, Ensor closed his 'dark' period and introduced the ironic and fantastic themes and motifs which constitute his fame today. His palette also became more colourful. The works in the MSK collection shown here date from the period 1885-1895.