Hieronymus Bosch is a fascinating character, something I’m sure you can agree with if you’ve seen any of his work- or even his given name. El Bosco, as he was known after relocating to Spain, had an incredibly rich imagination fitted with fantastical creatures, hellish landscapes, and bizarre inventions that defy description.

His work stands out from other artists from the same time period, given the creatures in his paintings’ almost unbelievable creativity. In the same triptych you can find three fish eating each other- the outermost possessing legs of a cricket, a large clothed bird with dog ears and human legs holding a letter in its beak on ice skates, and a water jug with legs of a deer standing in a pond- just to name a few.

bosch temptation of st anthony
Bosch’s Temptation of St. Anthony, which contains all of the characters I just described and more

Undeniably biblical, the triptych titled The Garden of Earthly Delights was actually commissioned for a town home in Brussels, despite appearing as an altarpiece. The Last Judgement is the core theme of the incredibly detailed painting, with Bosch clearly using his work to critique the state of sinfulness in the world.

Beginning in the Garden of Eden when God introduced Eve to Adam, things quickly devolved into the mass of sex and debauchery as seen in the middle panel. Finally, God casts his judgement and the lustful people are cast into a hellscape full of freakish creatures, fire, and despair.


Hieronymus Bosch the garden of earthly delights
The Garden of Earthly Delights, Hieronymus Bosch

Both of these works showcase quite well the phenomenal imagination of Bosch which set him apart from the other Dutch Renaissance painters. His control over color and technical mastery give life to the most remarkable creatures born through sin and hellfire. Bosch’s unique style of painting is easily comparable to both medieval art and surreal painting.

As for the comparison to medieval work, his human and humanoid figures have the same idealized proportions as many painters of that time. They are elongated with little to no muscle definition, and often have rounded features. In addition, some of his bizarre creatures likely drew inspiration from the monastic illustrations found in many books produced in that time period. A prime example would be the The Mouth of Hell from the Winchester Psalter, in which hordes of demons are being locked into Hell by a singular angel.

the mouth of hell winchester psalter
The Mouth of Hell from the Winchester Psalter,  1150

It’s very easy to name Bosch an inspiration to surrealist artists- particularly Dali. The unimaginable creatures and comparatively simple backgrounds evoke the same feeling of curiosity. Although Bosch’s preference for religious imagery directly contradicts the “Manifesto of Surrealism”, which clearly states that art should be free from ‘moral purpose’, the figures are still too similar to ignore.

All in all, Bosch’s work has undeniably stood the test of time, and remains a part of pop culture centuries later.

Post-Impressionism’s Resurgence

Van Gogh finally gets his time to shine, a few years too late

In the last few years, I’ve noticed an incredibly large amount of art history thrown onto anything and everything- from Frida Kahlo earrings (I had a pair), Hieronymus Bosch Doc Martens (high on my wishlist), to it’s popularity in meme culture. Art history is everywhere, but there’s one particular movement that sticks out, Post-Impressionism. In particular, Van Gogh.

#Selfie Van Gogh tee by BootsTees on Etsy, you can get it here.

You can find his paintings anywhere, Doctor Who (this clip made me cry the first time I watched it, fair warning), socks, even my dad had a phone case with Starry Night!  He’s also the subject of the first fully hand-painted movie, titled Loving Vincent, which took over 100 individual artists to complete. Needless to say, the world has an intense infatuation with Vincent, and his work deserves it. The man was a genius.

Detail of a Self Portrait Drawing, Van Gogh. Look at how he describes the planes of his face through linework.

Vincent’s incredible popularity I believe can be attributed to a host of things, first and foremost being his ingenuity in both color and linework. If you were to take a look at any one of his sketches, finished drawings, or most definitely paintings, you would see that every single line he lays is describing the plane of the surface it rests on. Every single line. In addition, his markmaking is ridiculously descriptive of the textures he is attempting to capture, all while retaining it’s impressionistic feel. Not only does he use the line work of the piece to emphasize form, he also is incredibly skilled in color theory. He meticulously chose colors based on their compliments, even writing about his choices in a letter to his brother, Theo. He chose his colors from the specific color wheel created by the chemist Eugène Chevreul after reading about his take on color theory. He places colors directly, or extremely close to their complimentary colors in order to make the color really pop.

Wheat Field with Cypress Trees, Van Gogh 1889. One of my personal favorites.

In addition to his creative genius and technical skill, I believe that a part of people’s love for his work reflects a slow shift in society’s contemporary artistic values from heavy abstraction to more of an appreciation for technical skill, particularly when it’s used to express emotion.

All in all, dear Vincent truly deserves the posthumous fame he’s garnered, no matter the reason. Anyone- art lover or not, can enjoy Starry Night, and it’s bringing art back to pop culture. Although to be honest, I just really enjoy buying everyday items covered in art.