James Ensor (1860–1949) was a major figure in the Belgian avant-garde of the late nineteenth century and an important precursor to the development of Expressionism in the early twentieth. He has influenced generations of later artists. Ensor contributed to modernity with his innovative and allegorical use of light, his prominent use of satire, his deep interest in carnival and performance, and his own self-fashioning and use of masking, travesty, and role-playing.
'He knew all the right art-world people but hated most of them and was sure they hated him. He was an aggrieved traditionalist with a pop-culture itch, equally entertained by Rubens and tabloid cartoons. He was a sophisticated artist who helped shape early Modernism, not in a Paris studio but in an attic room over a novelty shop in a resort town on the North Sea'.
Here is a great article about him from the NYTIMES (By HOLLAND COTTER) before the opening of his retrospective at the Museum of Modern 2009.