During the 1880s, James Ensor lived in his hometown of Ostend and was often in the company of Alfred William Finch who, like Ensor, was of British ancestry and grew up in the seaside resort. Their work from this period, shortly after the two young artists had left the Brussels Academy, is very similar in style and technique. The many portraits they drew and painted of each other bear witness to their close friendship. Willy Finch in the Studio is an expressive yet realistic portrait, quickly executed in heavy, tachistic areas of paint. Ensor used a palette knife to accentuate the impasto paint and, by scraping parts away, allowed the underlying layers to play a pictorial role. Through the subtle play of light, Ensor wanted the physiognomy of his friend to be recognisable.