It’s been not a good week. Please, indulge me this little chronicle just as an escaping illusion. As of the video, I know, it’s somehow sorrowful but still…
The Jheronimus van Aken exhibition at the Prado Museum, which ran from May to September this year, reached the impressive number of 600,000 visitors. This record comes as no surprise as we identify van Aken as the artist who honoured his hometown adopting the pseudonym of “Bosch”, the highly popular Hyeronimus Bosch; but, still, seems a good excuse to inquire once more about the steady or even rising popularity of such a limited and distant artist.
I don’t mean to show disdain about him— how could I dare !. I just want to make a point of the scarcity of his work— few more than twenty paintings have been credited to him— the very limited themes covered— most if not all reproduce biblical scenes or have religious content— and of the fact that he was born around or shortly after 1450, at a time when America had not yet been discovered— hence the distance— and died in 1516, half a millennium ago.
And yet, Jheronimus Bosch is appreciated as the creator of a world of esoteric and magic resonances, a Paracelsus (his contemporary) whose alchemy is based in the figurative translation of our main myths: origin, end, fate. The language into which Bosch translates these myths is made up of tiny interacting couples: human for the most part in “The hay wain”, half human half chimeric when representing hell torments or mundane vices in “The last judgement” and a mix of humans and allegoric images of an obscure meaning, like the “tree man” representation of the right panel of “The garden of earthly delights”. Some times, this oneiric universe could be viewed as an never ending parade of monsters (as people usually refer to them) in morbid scenes heading to some final cliff. Impossible to ascertain which chemicals could draw someone to such a delirium.
The exhibition at El Prado, however successful and very populated, was somehow flawed precisely by its own success and popularity. The long lines of people waiting for their turn to enter the exhibition were followed by crowded groups of the same people desperately trying to catch some detail on the canvas; an almost impossible task. In a sense, the magnificent effort of imagination has been wasted by a shortsighted organisation. In this respect, El Prado would have to follow some of the usual practices at the “Reina Sofía”, the homologous museum focused in contemporary art: the use of screens to magnify and describe the contents it exhibits, at least those whose craft is near to that of some miniaturists, as is the case. On the other hand this would approach the crafting of Bosch to the contemporary sensibility of people that appreciate the narrative, the story inside every painting as they have been raised in a plastic rather than literary environment.
This last remark leads me to my final comment and recommendation: the Bosch commemorative exhibition needed an extra effort to approach its contents to current people and, at the same time, to prolong and reinforce its influence: along with the retired people and the familiar groups lining up for a while maybe too long, some daily or weekly period would had to be reserved for the growing population of young involved in that intersecting world where plastic art and disciplines meet the information technologies and the graphic narratives of comics. Students and practitioners of these disciplines would have to be forced by some sort of chimeric guardians to attend and contemplate and imitate the exploding delirium of that far and weird and obscure dutch painter. Some industries, like those of computer animation and some creative products like graphic novels would greatly benefit of their practitioners being exposed to such an explosion of creativity.