The captivating creatures of Hieronymus Bosch have taken over Rotterdam's Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen through November 11, in the largest exhibition ever devoted to the medieval artist (ca. 1450-1516). Practically every being he depicted—from monstrous insects to cunning devils to snarling dragons that kept your eyes wide open as a ten-year-old—is on view.
Why are we ordinary mortals still enthralled by Bosch's grotesque renditions? "Once his rich sense of fantasy draws us in, we're transfixed by his artistic mastery," says art historian Bernard Vermet, who coordinated the show. Bosch possessed a dazzling technique, rendering his creatures and landscapes with remarkable detail, and he was also a vibrant colorist. "He influenced generations of painters, beginning with Bruegel through to the Surrealists and up to now," Vermet says.
The museum's own six works by Bosch are supplemented by selections from both European and American institutions. In addition, original paintings and copies by Bosch's circle (such as The Concert in the Egg, left) and works by contemporary artists like Robert Gober, Sue Coe, and William Kentridge, who evoke the spirit of the macabre artist, are also on view.
If you can't get to the Netherlands, there's the just-published Hieronymus Bosch: The Complete Paintings and Drawings (Abrams), by Vermet and two other experts, Jos Koldeweij (who curated the show) and Paul Vandenbroeck. You can also take in the museum's www.boschuniverse.com, which contains well-presented historical information and a cunning game. It's the virtual world of Bosch—both heaven and hell.