Blackpaint 149

Bruegel and Bosch

An obvious pair for comparison, I suppose – but why not be obvious for once, instead of subtle and insightful (lovely word)?

Bosch is considerably earlier, I was surprised to find; C1450 – 1516, lived at ‘s-Hertogenbosch; Bruegel 1525-1569, maybe born at Breda, lived in Antwerp and Brussels.  Bruegel was much younger than Michelangelo, which again, was a slight surprise, since B’s paintings always struck me as more archaic, the difference in place and influences, I suppose.  On reflection though, maybe Bruegel’s peasants, lumpy, awkward and working as they are, are more naturalistic, more “modern”, than the idealised forms the Italians copied from the Greeks and Romans.

Back to Bosch and Bruegel.  The similarities are obvious:

  • the weird beasts and animaculae;
  • the themes;
  • the nightmarish visions.

First, the beasts.  Bosch had the “Tree man”, with the body of a cracked egg with a family inside.  He repeated the figure with minor variations, in “The Garden of Earthly Delights”.

He did several giant knives, including one like a cannon’s barrel,  poking up between a pair of ears.

He did various hybrid fish, bird, lizard and insect monsters, many wearing odd pieces of armour.  See his “Last Judgement”.

In “Death of a Reprobate”, he did two odd, armless, walking midgets dressed in black.

He did a bird-headed creature, seated on a sort of throne, eating the damned which it then excretes through a hole in the throne into a sort of darkened glass bulb and thence into the pit.  Glass spheres and bulbs feature frequently, for example, in “The Garden”.

Some pictures, eg “the Wayfarer”, contain torture, execution, gallows.


“Big fish eat little fish..”; his fish closely resemble Bosch.

“Dulle Griet” has a man with an egg backside, spooning gold out of it.  Eggs hatching various monstrosities abound in the picture.  Elsewhere, an upside-down man thing is spooning from a bowl with a spoon up his bottom.

“The land of Cockaigne” has a tiny egg on legs, containing a knife, presenting itself to the sleeping men.  Also in Cockaigne is a living pig with a cut out of its back and a knife through its skin (an idea borrowed by Douglas Adams – the cow that wants to be eaten in “Restaurant at the End of the Universe”).

In “The Fall of the Rebel Angels”, he has a number of mutating, hybrid creatures cascading down with alarmed expressions, under the blades of St.Michael and others; there is a puffer fish, a butterfly, a toadlike thing, lizards with human arms, some clad in armour.

The world is portrayed as a young boy cutpurse, enclosed in a glass sphere, in “The Misanthrope”.

In “The Triumph of Death”, there are skeletal horses, carts driven by skeletons, gallows, executions, tortures.  More gallows (as the name implies) in “the Magpie on the Gallows”.

So in the paintings of both artists, many of the “personnel” resemble each other.  Interestingly (possibly), both artists have turned up on covers of 1960’s SF paperbacks – Bruegel’s “Triumph” on “Timeless Stories” ed, Ray Bradbury and a Bosch egg on legs on Fredric Brown’s “Nightmares and Geezenstacks”.  Sorry – another of my tiresome obsessions.  More at the weekend, when I’ll do themes.

Beefheart by Blackpaint



Tags: , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: