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Hieronymus Bosch: Visions and Nightmares (Renaissance Lives )

Hieronymus Bosch: Visions and Nightmares (Renaissance Lives )

Current price: $22.50
Publication Date: January 22nd, 2024
Reaktion Books
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An accessible biography of the celebrated early Netherlandish painter, now in paperback.

In his lifetime the early Netherlandish painter Hieronymus Bosch was famous for his phantasmagoric images, and today his name is synonymous with the infernal. The creator of expansive tableaus of fantastic and hellish scenes—where any devil not dancing is too busy eating human souls—he has been as equally misunderstood by history as his paintings have. In this book, Nils Büttner draws on a wealth of historical documents—not to mention Bosch’s paintings—to offer a fresh and insightful look at one of history’s most peculiar artists on the five-hundredth anniversary of his death.
Bosch’s paintings have elicited a number of responses over the centuries. Some have tried to explain them as alchemical symbolism, others as coded messages of a secret cult, and still others have tried to psychoanalyze them. Some have placed Bosch among the Adamites, others among the Cathars, and others among the Brethren of the Free Spirit, seeing in his paintings an occult life of free love, strange rituals, mysterious drugs, and witchcraft. As Büttner shows, Bosch was—if anything—a hardworking painter, commissioned by aristocrats and courtesans, as all painters of his time were. Analyzing his life and paintings against the backdrop of contemporary Dutch culture and society, Büttner offers one of the clearest biographical sketches to date alongside beautiful reproductions of some of Bosch’s most important work. The result is a smart but accessible introduction to a unique artist whose work transcends genre. 

About the Author

Nils Büttner is professor of art history at the State Academy of Art and Design in Stuttgart, Germany. He is the author of Landscape Painting, The History of Gardens in Painting, and Otto Dix and New Objectivity. 

Anthony Matthews is an associate lecturer at the Open University.

Praise for Hieronymus Bosch: Visions and Nightmares (Renaissance Lives )

"Several excellent books have appeared in this centenary year to introduce Bosch and his work to the general public. Büttner's Hieronymus Bosch is an attractive little hardbound book with good color illustrations providing an inviting, judicious overview of Bosch in his historical environment."
— New York Review of Books

"The art historian Büttner offers a gateway to understanding Bosch’s art in his brief but thoughtful biography Hieronymus Bosch: Visions and Nightmares."
— New Criterion

"Büttner has written a handy, nearly ideal volume on the much-admired but little-understood Bosch. The author builds the historical context in which to view Bosch's work without drowning readers in superfluous detail. In addition, he offers guidance in understanding how Bosch thought visually without telling readers what to think or frustrating them to the point of throwing up their hands. . . . Bosch emerges as an early moral satirist rather than as a secretive, strange quasi heretic, which is to say as more normal and arguably more artistically important than he has previously been portrayed. . . . A nicely illustrated quarto that neatly finds that sweet spot between casual and serious students of art. . . . This book is an excellent start to the Renaissance Lives series."
— Choice

"The reader will appreciate Büttner’s detailed analysis of Bosch’s painting style and process (rarely discussed by other scholars), as well as his forensic approach to Bosch’s highly problematic oeuvre. . . . As an exercise in methodology, Büttner’s text is a relevant addition to any Bosch bibliography. While favoring primary sources, Büttner effectively models a multi-pronged approach, also applying provenance and connoisseurship, together with technical (infrared reflectographic and dendrochronological) findings."
— Comitatus

"This well-researched sketch is most welcome. . . . [Büttner’s] insights are often original rather than conventional wisdom. . . . Its terse, clear prose provides the bare bones of Bosch biography, insofar as it is known, as well as documented early collecting of these works. . . . Büttner emphasizes the unique vision, not the family workshop, of this distinctive painter. He does not see Bosch as emerging out of Flemish precedents, but instead lays out how his unique imagery could capture the imagination of his contemporaries as well as his numerous (often anonymous) copyists and followers."
— Renaissance and Reformation