The Artist Hieronymus Bosch

Born around the year 1450 in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, the painter Hieronymus Bosch was born Hieronymus van Aken, but signed several paintings as Bosch denoting his birthplace. An early artist of the Netherlands, Bosch is best known today for his famous triptychs and paintings of religious imagery. Some of his most famous works include The Garden of Earthly Delights (1503-1504), The Seven Deadly Sins and Four Last Things, and The Temptation of St. Anthony. Bosch did not date his paintings so most of his works are simply ascribed to his adult life.

Art historians know little of Bosch’s personal life and artistic training. Most of what is known of him comes from town records. He left no views behind about his art and no diaries or correspondences have ever been discovered. Even his birth date is not known with certainty. It is clear that Bosch’s father Anthonius van Aken was an artistic consultant for the Brotherhood of Our Lady in ‘s-Hertogenbosch—the capital of the Duchy of Brabant. A municipal record first mentions Bosch in 1474 where it also lists his two brothers and a sister. At this time in history, Brabant was part of Spain and the area, in the southern Netherlands, appears to have been prosperous at this time.

It is known that Bosch became a respected and sought-after painter who was even commissioned to paint abroad though little is known of any travels. Between 1479 and 1481 he married Aleyt Goyaerts van den Meerveen and the couple moved to Oirschot, a nearby town. Bosch’s paintings are famous for their fantastic imagery, but the artist also became one of the most influential draftsmen in history. Today only twenty-five paintings can be accurately attributed to the artist. However, many of his drawings have survived including such works as The Ship of Fools, Beggars and Cripples, and Christ Carrying the Cross.

Bosch’s works have sometimes been called savage and seem to be satirizing religious authority. At the time, Bosch’s town was known for its religious progressiveness. Most of Bosch’s paintings derive from Biblical stories and sometimes from folklore. Art historians often note Bosch’s unique style among other Flemish painters—from other painters anywhere. He is often praised for his individualistic expression that appears strikingly free. Many of his works denote a sense of horror and denote a world of pain—subject matter that was not typical of other Flemish artists. Art critics sometimes marvel at Bosch’s visions of animals and monsters that seem to remarkably point toward the twentieth-century’s Surrealism movement. Bosch died in 1516. Critics and art historians continue to study is art today.