Ensor took delight in macabre nightmarish fantasies, like the one he portrayed in The Banquet of the Starved. Guests sit around the Last-Supper style table, clad in grotesque masks and engaged in a variety of sinful activities, inspired by the German occupation of Belgium and accompanying period of starvation:
Above, The Banquet of the Starved, 1915. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Above, La Vanité Dansante, 1945. Image via Michael Tollemache Fine Art
Ensor's family owned a curiosity shop (Ostend was a famed carnival resort-town), from which he drew much inspiration. (Look at all of the fantastic masks!) Of course, I'm apt to feel great affection towards anyone who dresses up their sofa and GIVES IT A HEAD.
Ensor's paintings are breathtaking within the context of his apartment. Interiors like this one make it obvious how deficient a gallery setting can be at times...
Below, an image of a shelf of masks from the souvenir shop. From one of his letters: "I spent my childhood in my parents' shop, surrounded by strange creatures of the sea, by magnificent shells of pearly iridescence, and by the bizarre skeletons of sea monsters and marine plants."
Late in life, Ensor reminisced about the shop and its influence on him:
In my parents' shop I saw the undulating lines and sinuous shapes of beautiful shells, the iridescent gleam of mother-of-pearl and the rich tones of fine chinoiserie, and above all the sea, vast and constant, made a profound impression upon me.
Artists' Houses, by Gérard-Georges Lemaire
Scans and quotes from Artists' Houses by Gérard-Georges Lemaire, Photographs by Jean-Claude Amiel, 2005.