on bosch and bruegel

5ccee3f6-1470-11e7-95d0-4f54ce31baaeGabriel Josipovici at the Times Literary Supplement:

A new book by Joseph Koerner is always an event. Here, as usual, he seems to have read everything and to have thought about everything connected with his chosen subject, the two early modern Netherlands painters Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Bruegel the Elder, so similar in many ways and yet so different: their lives and their work; the complex history of the Netherlands and Europe in the sixteenth century; the seismic cultural shifts occurring at the time; the commissioning and afterlife of individual paintings; the way they lay on the paint and the way they intend their work to be seen and how it is seen now – the Boschs mainly in the Prado, the Bruegels mainly in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. He feels it is as important to note how visitors respond to their work in these galleries as it is to understand the iconography they are using (visitors crowd excitedly round Bosch, they smile happily to themselves as they view Bruegel).

But it is his ability to look and to find words for what he is looking at that sets him in the very front rank of art historians. Here he is looking at Bosch’s great drawing of the Tree-Man (probably, he thinks, a version of the mysterious Tree-Man in the “Garden of Earthly Delights”, made for a collector after the painting) on a sheet now in the Albertina in Vienna:

Invention demands a capacity of mind. But as the medium of drawing lays it bare, it happens in the bodily and material activity of painting. Bosch creates his lines out of bistre, a brown pigment produced by boiling the soot of wood [there is much here about the way the artist plays with his name, “forest”].

more here.

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