Beyond Bosch: The Afterlife of a Renaissance Master in Print

, University Research Gallery, Harvard Art Museums

Unidentified etcher, after Hieronymus Bosch, “The Tree-Man,” c. 1600. Etching. Private collection, TL41504.4.

University Research Gallery, Harvard Art Museums

The art of Netherlandish master Hieronymus Bosch (c. 1450–1516) is characterized by fantastic creatures, fire-breathing monsters, and apocalyptic visions of Hell. Fascination with Bosch’s paintings ignited the imaginations of artists and viewers alike, giving rise to a distinct group of images inspired by this singular artist. This exhibition, organized by the Saint Louis Art Museum, explores the phenomenon of Bosch’s wide-reaching impact through the print medium from the 16th century to the present. The more than 30 prints on display, mostly from a single private collection, are joined by a selection from the Harvard Art Museums collections, presenting a unique opportunity to view these riveting works.

The exhibition tells the story of Bosch’s afterlife in the print medium and the profound impact that the burgeoning print market, beginning prominently in mid-16th-century Antwerp, had on his posthumous reputation. Although none of the prints are by Bosch, nearly all declare him the “inventor” of their compositions, giving rise to a true Boschian brand. The long tradition of Bosch-inspired prints begins with the master’s contemporary, Alart du Hameel, and continues with artists and entrepreneurs spanning several centuries, including Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Hieronymus Cock, Balthasar van den Bos, Jacques Callot, and M. C. Escher. An animated video by contemporary Belgian artist Antoine Roegiers, The Seven Deadly Sins (2011), will also be shown in the gallery. The video takes its inspiration from a series of drawings by Pieter Bruegel the Elder that were themselves inspired by Bosch.

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue published by the Saint Louis Art Museum, which will be available in the Harvard Art Museums shop. Contributors include exhibition curators Marisa Bass (Harvard AM ʼ06, PhD ʼ11), from Washington University in Saint Louis, and Elizabeth Wyckoff, from the Saint Louis Art Museum, as well as Matthijs Ilsink of the Bosch Research and Conservation Project and Peter Fuhring of the Fondation Custodia in Paris.

Beyond Bosch is on display in the museums’ University Research Gallery, a site for curatorial experimentation that encourages a range of faculty engagement, from generating exhibition concepts to evaluating visitor experience. Leading Bosch scholar Joseph Koerner, the Victor S. Thomas Professor of the History of Art and Architecture at Harvard, and Noah Feldman, the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard, are incorporating this exhibition into their course The Enemy: Law and the Human.

Beyond Bosch: The Afterlife of a Renaissance Master in Print has been organized by the Saint Louis Art Museum. It was curated by Marisa Bass, assistant professor of art history and archaeology at Washington University in Saint Louis, and Elizabeth Wyckoff, curator of prints, drawings, and photographs at the Saint Louis Art Museum. The Harvard Art Museums’ presentation of Beyond Bosch was curated by Danielle Carrabino, associate research curator in European and American art, and has been made possible in part by support from the Rabb Family Exhibitions Fund and an anonymous gift in memory of Melvin R. Seiden.

This year marks the 500th anniversary of Bosch’s death, and the Harvard Art Museums are one of the first institutions in the world to open an exhibition officially honoring the 2016 milestone.

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