Hieronymus Bosch- an art critique

A look at Boch's use of art elements and design

Hieronymus Bosch's work is very symbolic, leaving the observer unable to stay neutral in emotions and wonder. In some sense it seems to be surreal or dreamlike- somewhat ahead of his time since it is a few hundred years prior to the actual Surrealism movement. The art is pictorial, but not realistic. Through elements and principles of art, Bosch takes us into a world that seems to depict good and evil.

The very first observation in terms of using the elements of art is that the oil painting is divided between red and orange- hot colors (somewhat like hell or fire) and cool blue colors that are more serene and peaceful. As we move to the left and to the back, evil and destruction ensue. Furthermore, Bosh creates depth by having a strong intuitive sense of linear perspective.

Intuitive is the operative word. On close examination the perspective is, although very convincing and effective...inaccurate, with different groups of objects going to different vantage points almost like a strange collage. It also appears that the strong use of darker values, against light, are used to separate the humans and creatures, from the architectural structures. The colors of blue, red and the very light shades, are repeated in figures and costumes. Perhaps blue and red are symbolic to Bosch since the entire piece seems to contain other symbolism.

Bosh uses common pictorial tricks to organize his composition. He draws attention to or creates various points of emphasis not only with his use of color, but also by having the people and creatures looking in a particular direction. He is forcing the observer to look in that direction too because we always seem to look at what others are looking at. Its as if Bosch knows this psychology and has used it in his painting.

The painting tells a story but it also creates a sort of mystery that seems entertaining, if not in some twisted way. The composition is organized in a chaotic manner. It is very busy. Every where you look, you discover a new mutated creature...these creatures are very busy interacting.

When looking at a Bosch painting it is as if you are encouraged to unravel all the symbolic secret meanings. At the same time it is quite clear that there is a great hellishness or witchcraft in the world he is depicting. He creates all of this by making skillful use of art elements and principles.

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