Saturday, February 13, 2016

Bosch in Heaven and Hell

The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch

The paintings of the Netherlandish painter Hieronymous Bosch are the stuff of nightmares and hellfire sermons, filled with frightening creatures devouring the unfaithful, along with other bizarre images. Five hundred years ago Bosch was a respectable Roman Catholic painter who it turned out had a dark inner life. This description of the painter in The Guardian is excellent:

The public face of Bosch, walking the streets of this little city, was that of a good townsman and Catholic. His private thoughts emerge in the most unexpected and miraculous of all the treasures assembled – his drawings. Twenty survive in the entire world, according to the Bosch Research and Conservation Project, whose findings this exhibition reveals – and 19 of them are on view here. They show us the secret Bosch, a man with a mind full of monsters.

They have been brought together in his hometown of Den Bosch for the retrospective from hell -- almost literally. If you look at the video link you'll hear about the challenge to a small gallery with a modest budget in bringing these works together. I can only imagine that seeing them as a collection will have a much greater impact than viewing them separately.

The Europe of the beginning of the 16th century was an uncertain and often brutish place where death stalked people in the form of the plague and other epidemics. Religion was often dark as well, with the threat of eternal damnation for sinners. We get a sense of this in Bosch's paintings which are both disturbing and powerful.

What do Bosch's paintings evoke for you? Are you just repulsed, or is there some fascination as well? What about the religious notions reflected in these images?

1 comment:

Laurie said...

His pictures fascinate me. So much to see and think about.