Hieronymus Bosch Quotes Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
Email: [email protected] / Phone: +44 7429 011000

Studying an artist's quotations is a quick way of getting a picture of the artistic ideas and inspirations of the specific creative.

Discovering his Quotes

Such is the length of time that has passed since Hieronymus Bosch's work took hold that there are now precious few directly attributed quotations available. This mirrors the similarly tricky task of separating the artworks of his studio's from his own. We also include insightful views from others on Bosch's own achievements, from a variety of sources including fellow artists as well as several historians from the past few centuries who have studied his career in detail. Bosch was an unusually expressive artist who also possessed an incredible imagination, meaning it is necessary to learn more about his character to understand where some of these ideas might have come from. We do know that his family home burnt down whilst he was a child, and so perhaps some of these hellish figures in later triptychs may have come from this harrowing childhood experience. Indeed, fire itself engulfs a number of his later paintings, which may simply have been a reference to biblical content, but may have also linked directly to this experience some years earlier. Bosch himself was able to work as an artist with his own studio as a result of his marriage into a relatively wealthy family, which allowed this creative man to make the most of his natural talent.

Research Continues into his Life and Career

Despite 500 years having passed since his career impacted the world of art, there continues to be considerable research carried out into Bosch's work. As recently as 2016, a number of new publications cast new light on to some of his paintings after extensive studies which unveiled layers of paint below the surface of some of his incredible creations. There has also been strong attempts to collate and discuss his drawings more comprehensively, as this facet of his oeuvre has often been overlooked. A number of Dutch institutions have led much of this work, and there continues to be a devotion to this period, plus the later Dutch Golden Age, in order to remind the population of the rich artistic heritage to be found in this relatively small European nation. The public themselves have also always shown an interest in his work, considering him an artist who connects with modern times and styles more easily than some of the more stale alternatives found during that period. It has taken many centuries to bring together all of his work in a confident manner, but that has been achieved over the last few years, allowing us to marvel at his collective contribution in a series of comprehensive publications.

Impact of the Northern Renaissance

Bosch played an important role within the Northern Renaissance which itself was critical to the development of culture within Europe. Many are aware of Italy's role within this progression, but may not know about the equally significant role played by the likes of Bruegel, Bosch, Van Eyck and Durer. They encouraged the use of oils, when Italians had preferred other methods. They also made use of other mediums with particular skill, such as woodcutting. The two regions together would push things on from medieval times and today all of the great masters are understood and respected by art historians who regularly attempt to connect their lives together. Sadly, our understanding of the artists themselves is limited by a lack of quotes in most of their cases, and so we are forced to really focus more on their artworks instead. Even our understanding of their lives is limited to relatively little information, as shown in our biography on Bosch himself. The most important thing, however, is that so many of his paintings have survived to the present day and are now protected and preserved with the upmost care and attention.

Famous Quotes by Hieronymus Bosch

As mentioned previously, quotes that can be confidently attributed to Hieronymus Bosch have been particularly hard to find, even though his career has been examined in such detail and for so long. Quite simply, too much time has passed since his era in order to really uncover anything new today, other than from the artworks themselves via new scientific research techniques. That said, third hand accounts are more prevalent and so we have added views from others further down this page. Thankfully, Bosch's paintings do give us plenty of information on his personality, and the way in which he felt that art should be delivered. He was unusually expressive for the period, working in a looser manner than other members of the Northern Renaissance and his content was also inventive. Generally speaking, it is the innovators whose reputations last longest and strongest within the realms of art history, and the same can be said for Bosch, with just a few quotes from his life listed below.

"...For poor is the mind that always uses the ideas of others and invents none of its own..."

Hieronymus Bosch whilst creating The Wood has Ears, The Field Eyes

"...And what is the potential man, after all? Is he not the sum of all that is human? Divine, in other words?..."

Quotes about Hieronymus Bosch

We have pulled out a number of quotes on Bosch's life and career from a variety of sources, both online and printed publications. See the selection below. His work has been re-evaluated many times over but the key findings have never really changed that much. We know him to have been an inventive individual whose grotesque creatures could shock and excite in equal measure. He was also unusually expressive as compared to other major names from the Northern Renaissance. There is something about his style which has connected with the public, with his bizarre creations continuing to draw support from even the most occasional art follower. His bright colour tones have also allowed him to remain contemporary in some people's eyes, even though much of his content was related to ages-old literature. Indeed, he would have made an incredible book illustrator, given the change, but he came about at a time when triptych art offered him the best opportunities. He also had strong connections through his family that allowed commissions to come in fairly readily, with a certain level of artistic freedom which was crucial in us getting to see the real Hieronymus Bosch.

Bosch is a complete visionary... His oeuvre, having emerged out of oblivion, calls into question the very foundations of the art of painting.

Andre Breton, 1957

Of what did Bosch dream? Of Christ's Passion,
Of the wickedness and stupidity of the soldiers,
Of the vanity and transience of this earthly life,
Of Hell with its instruments of torture,
Of the temptation against which the holy men are capable of putting up little resistance.

Max Jacob Friedlander, 1941

In the portrayal of strange apparitions and hideous and terrifying dreams and worlds, the Fleming Hieronymus Bosch was unique and truly divine.

Giovanni Paolo Lomazzo, 1584

Foe God often gives the ability to learn and the wit to make something good to [an artist] who has no equal in his day, and whose like has not been seen for many a year previously, nor shall soon come again.

Albrecht Durer, 1528

He knew that he had a great talent for painting and that people would have considered him... a painter who ranked behind Durer, Michelangelo, Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci and others, and so he embarked upon a new road, one on which he left the others behind...

Jose de Siguenza, 1605

Bosch is one of the very few painters who - he was indeed more than a painter! - who acquired a magic vision. He saw through the phenomenal world, rendered it transparent, and thus revealed its pristine aspect.

Henry Miller, 1957

Eccentric and secret genius that he was, Bosch not only moved the heart, but scandalized it into full awareness. The sinister and monstrous things that he brought forth are the hidden creatures of our inward self-love: he externalizes the ugliness within, and so his misshapen demons have an effect beyond curiosity. We feel a hateful kinship with them. The Ship of Fools is not about other people. It is about us.

Wendy Beckett, The Story of Painting

Whereas painters of the early and middle 1400s enriched their own (and their countrymen's) understanding of the Gospel by recreating it in reality, their successors used this technique to study (and broaden) their entire world view. Hieronymus Bosch mastered a whole genre by merging the realism of Flemish painting with fantastic allegories of the human condition. His pictures of vermin and birds in men's clothing, atrocities, and weirdly juxtaposed objects use the realism of the earlier masters as a means of stark caricature. It was in this form, the most extreme possible, that character and moral differentiation were introduced into the realm of realistic depiction.

Roy Wagner, The Invention of Culture

For the first and perhaps for the only time, an artist had succeeded in giving concrete and tangible shape to the fears that had haunted the minds of man in the Middle Ages. It was an achievement that was perhaps only possible at this very moment of time when the old ideas were still vigorous while the modern spirit has provided the artist with methods to represent what he saw.

Ernst H. Gombrich, 1950