Solveig Steinhardt thinks there are no nightmares as fascinating as those imagined by Hieronymus Bosch.
Five-hundred years since the death of Hieronymus Bosch, Europe seems to have gone crazy with Bosch fever. Thanks to his famously vivid imagination, the Dutch painter has always enjoyed a particularly widespread popularity among both art fans and lay crowds alike. His inventive depiction of the afterlife and hell, filled with little monsters, giant frogs, demons, and hordes of naked people in pain surrounded by inexpressive man-sized birds and nightmarish creatures has always intrigued and terrified viewers. The lack of information about the painter's life has only added to his halo of mystery. Where did Bosch get the inspiration for such a dark, disquieting universe? While popular belief is that he experienced hallucinations after ingesting rye contaminated with ergot fungus, researchers argue that he was inspired by a heretic point of view, and that he possibly used his art to criticize the corruption and scandalous behaviour of the church. But no matter what Bosch meant to say to us, we should all take advantage of this year's Bosch-mania and use the opportunity to view the original work of this great master.
The biggest celebrations are taking place in the painter's hometown of s'-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands, which has turned itself into a sort of Bosch wonderland, not only with the largest-ever retrospective of his original work, but also with a number of Bosch-related activities around the old town. But exhibitions and special events seem to be taking place in every European city that owns a Bosch painting, from Venice to Madrid and Moscow.
In Berlin, the Gemäldegalerie pays homage to the great master with the exhibition Hieronymus Bosch and His Pictorial World in the 16th and 17th century, opening on 11 November with some of Bosch's original drawings and his oak panel painting St. John on Patmos, one of his most important works. The exhibition will also present four famous copies of his greatest masterpieces, including Last Judgement tryptich (pictured above), painted by no less than Lucas Cranach, and will also present many works by some of Bosch's successors who saw the painter as a source of inspiration, further proof of the painter's lasting influence and importance.