Hieronymus Bosch: The Very First Heavy Metal Artiston March 3, 2011 at 1:53 am
If you think being an artist is tough in modern times imagine what it was like in the 1400s? You have to imagine that it is especially difficult for someone painting the bizarre, fantastic, morbid and horrifying images that are common to us today. Then for those of you who do not know him, please let me introduce you to Hieronymus Bosch. If Bosch was alive today there is no doubt in my mind that he would be my friend, and would be working alongside of me on some Heavy Metal magazine projects. Bosh was Heavy Metal before Heavy Metal was Heavy Metal! Bosch is the one true classical painter I point to for inspiration, creativity, technique, uniqueness and more. Surely Gates the comic would not exist today and possibly even Heavy Metal for that matter, had Bosch not existed.
He was born Jeroen Anthoniszoon van Aken [jəˈrun ɑnˈtoːnɪsoːn vɑn ˈaːkə(n)]; c. 1450 – August 9, 1516). Bosch was an Early Netherlandish painter and one whom I consider to be the first “illustrator”. Bosch’s work is known for its use of fantastic and dark imagery used to illustrate moral and religious concepts and narratives.When everyone else was painting self portraits, still life and other happier religious imagery, Hieronymus Bosch dove into the depths of the subconscious, and explored the dark, melancholy side of religion. He painted hell and purgatory using phallic imagery and touched on taboo subjects such as homosexuality and orgies. Bosch was a very rare breed in a conservative “god fearing” time period of world history. Like Heavy Metal Magazine, he challenged the raw, sexual and fantastic side of life and did it to almost a blasphemous degree.
Little is known of Hieronymus Bosch’s life, training, personality or his thoughts on the meaning of his art. Bosch’s date of birth has not been determined with certainty either but it is estimated at c. 1450 on the basis of a hand drawn portrait made shortly before his death in 1516.
Hieronymus Bosch produced several triptychs throughout his career. Among his most famous is The Garden of Earthly Delights, which I have a print of, hanging in my studio. This painting is amazingly detailed and filled with wonder revealing a new facet every time I look at it. It depicts a paradise with Adam and Eve and many wondrous animals on the left panel. The flawed, yet familiar earthly delights with numerous nude figures, orgies, phallic symbols including vaginas and penis like structures, tremendous fruit and birds on the middle panel. And last but not least, the dark fires of hell with depictions of fantastic punishments, homosexuality, religious betrayal and other various types of “sinners” on the right panel.It is a truly stunning piece of art that looks, fresh and exciting to this day. I’m positive if Bosch were alive, Kevin Eastman would be hiring him to do covers for issues of Heavy Metal.
Below you will see the garden of Earthly Delights and some close ups from it. I also included some other paintings. Bosch’s, the Garden of Earthly Delights is my all time favorite Hieronymus Bosch painting and actually my all time favorite painting period. When I first found Bosch I was in my first year of art school and I was immediately enthralled with his technique and subject matter. To paint what he painted, Bosch must have have bigger balls than Charlie Sheen. He was just amazingly gifted in terms of creativity and artistic vision to create some of the creatures he created. You have to remember, this is before movies, TV, Comic Books, and even books themselves were very new in terms of distribution. All of this was from his mind–or he was visited by extra terrestrials–which might not be such a wacky idea if you really study the ancient history of the human race.
Hieronymus Bosch transcends time through his artwork. He has been a major influence on my art and the Heavy Metal comic, Gates. Especially in the later part of the story when Gates reaches the outer world and meets all these strange creatures. There is something pleasantly unnerving about his art, even when it is more tame than his other pieces. However, to this day Bosch remains relevant and I am so grateful he existed. I hope you enjoy his work as much as I have.