The Curious World of Hieronymous Bosch (2016)

November 28th, 2016
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: David Bickerstaff | Prod: Phil Grabsky | Documentary | 86min |

The dynamic duo of Grabsky and Bickerstaff are at large again this time in Holland where the latest addition of their Exhibition of Screen series offers insight into one of the most intriguing painters of the medieval times through the Hieronymus Bosch Exhibition that took place at the Noordbrabants Museum in the small Dutch city early this year. Not only does this allow us unprecedented access to the extensive paintings and their curators, it also enables us to get a clear and often microscopic look at Bosch’s highly detailed 16th century world in his intricate artworks.

And commentary is provided by the experts; this time chief curator, Jos Koldeweij, Rachel Campbell Johnson, Art Critic of The Times and British filmmaker Peter Greenaway. And there’s so much to see and learn about here in The Garden of Earthly Delights where animals are often bigger than people, as they cavort on unicorns while birds swims and fish fly. Or The Last Judgement where grotesque events take over in a manic mayhem. The small town has able to gather all his most important works into this one place by offering deep insight into his work by an impressive collection of scholars. Campbell Johnson explains how Bosch interpreted his medieval vision and translated into our modern world, as if we were meeting the man himself, face to face. But what does it all mean?

In a tiny corner of Saint John of Patmos, we see a self-portrait of Bosch who was, contrary to popular belief, an ordinary and quite serious man who married well and became a leading member of the city’s religious fraternity ‘Brotherhood of our Lady’, living in one of the most illustrious townhouses in the main square. But behind this bourgeois facade, lay a highly inventive mind. Many of his triptych’s portray Heaven and Hell, a sort of pictorial version of Dante’s Inferno, where figures were roasted on poles or cast out in the wilderness, reflecting the doctrines of his era and gave rise to his vivid imagination and often tortured soul. Twenty of his drawings survive and 19 are offered in the exhibition and they depict an existential angst of nightmarish scenes where terrible eyes peer out from the ground and ears from the branches of trees. And then there is the legend of the woman who was martyred on the cross for growing a beard. As the camera zooms in to the delicately rendered portrait, it’s clear to see the bum fluff sprouting on her pale chin.

The Curious World of Hieronymus Bosch certainly lays to rest some myths and provides a fascinating insight into the artist himself, giving us a chance to get to grips with Bosch’s work in the context of this most intriguing time in art history. MT






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