After Bosch: Visions of a 20th century hell

After Bosch: Visions of a 20th century hell

Loop Visions of a hell where unspeakable cruelties are inflicted upon the damned by fearsome devils who take the utmost pleasure in their satanic work. I emerged from the 16th century nightmares of Hieronymus Bosch on display in the unparalleled 500th anniversary exhibition at Noordbrabants Museum in ‘s-Hertogenbosch into the bright sunlight of a spring afternoon. An hour later, after a ten minute bus ride out of town, I came face to face with the barbarity of a 20th century hell.

Vught was the only official SS concentration camp in occupied northwest Europe, established in occupied Holland. Political prisoners began its construction in May 1942. The first inmates arrived at the camp before it was finished at the end of 1942, the already famished and abused prisoners marched from the railway station in the village of Vught along country lanes to the camp. Socialists, communists and trade unionists, resistance fighters, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals and Roma – and, above all, Jews. There were families: married couples with their children, grandparents, uncles and aunts. Continue reading “After Bosch: Visions of a 20th century hell”

Hieronymus Bosch: visions of Hell and earthly delights in an astonishing exhibition

Hieronymus Bosch: visions of Hell and earthly delights in an astonishing exhibition

The first picture that you see when you enter the exhibition, Hieronymus Bosch: Visions of Genius, at Noordbrabants Museum in the painter’s home town of ‘s-Hertogenbosch depicts a careworn traveller making his way through the kind of landscape you can still see if you step beyond the town’s medieval battlements. Continue reading “Hieronymus Bosch: visions of Hell and earthly delights in an astonishing exhibition”

Hieronymus Bosch back in his old home town

Hieronymus Bosch back in his old home town

After dark in the old town of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, it’s easy to imagine that I am walking in the footsteps of Hieronymus Bosch. For even though he died 500 years ago, the street plan is unchanged from the lanes and alleyways with which he was familiar in the last decades of the 15th century. The painter lived here all his life, walking daily from his home on the Markt to his workshop nearby, and if he returned now, a wayfarer in time, he would still be able to find his way around.

And in a way he has returned. Banners fluttering over the city streets welcome Bosch back home to a year-long celebration the likes of which will almost certainly never be repeated. I’m here in this provincial Dutch town to see the remarkable exhibition which the director of the small museum has managed to assemble to mark the 500th anniversary of Bosch’s death. Improbably, he has convinced major museums around the world to lend nearly all of the 50 or so surviving paintings and drawings by the artist, at the same time attracting money from the Getty Foundation to pay for research and restoration work. Continue reading “Hieronymus Bosch back in his old home town”