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Bosch (Art & Ideas) [Paperback]

Prof . Laurinda Dixon , Hoop Design
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

28 July 2003 Art & Ideas

Hieronymus Bosch (c.1450-1516), one of the major artists of the Northern Renaissance, had a seemingly inexhaustible imagination. Known as the creator of disturbing demons and spectacular hellscapes, he also painted the Garden of Earthly Delights, where gleeful naked youths feast on giant strawberries. Little is known of Bosch's life and his art has remained enigmatic, variously interpreted as the hallucinations of a madman or the secret language of a heretical sect.

The Surrealists claimed Bosch as a predecessor, seeing in his work the imagery of dream, fantasy and the subconscious. Laurinda Dixon argues, however, that to understand and appreciate the art of Bosch, we must return to the era in which he lived. Dixon presents Bosch as an artist of his times, knowledgeable about the latest techniques of painting, active in the religious life of his community and conversant with the scientific developments of his day. She draws on popular culture, religious texts and contemporary medicine, astrology, astronomy and alchemy - now discounted but then of interest to serious thinkers - in order to investigate the underlying meaning of Bosch's art.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Phaidon Press (28 July 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0714839744
  • ISBN-13: 978-0714839745
  • Product Dimensions: 2.2 x 15.3 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 222,702 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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'Art & Ideas has broken new ground in making accessible authoritative views on periods, movements and concepts in art. As a series it represents a real advance in publishing.' (Sir Nicholas Serota, Director, Tate London)

'The format is wonderful and offers what had long been missing in academic studies: usable manuals for specific themes or periods...I am definitely not alone in welcoming Art & Ideas as a precious set of teaching tools.' (Joachim Pissarro, Yale University)

'Though the artist was claimed by both Surrealists and hippies as one of their own, Dixon makes a compelling case that much of his outlandish imagery can be explained by the science and morality of his times.' (Chris Hirst, Independent)

'Left me with the feeling I was understanding the significance of Bosch’s arcane imagery for the first time.' (Frank Whitford, Sunday Times)

About the Author

Laurinda Dixon is Professor of Art History at Syracuse University, New York. Her books include Alchemical Imagery in Bosch's 'Garden of Earthly Delights' and Perilous Chastity: Women and Illness in Pre-Enlightenment Art and Medicine.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
My judgement can be biased, for I'm love with the series Arts and Ideas by Phaidon since the first volumes appeared.
In regard of the texts, it is difficult to find such a convenient balance between familiarity and academic expertise. The graphic design is perfect: the small size of the volumes is comfortable to handle, but the exquisite graphic treatment of the images allows them to be satisfactorily appreciated.
In this regard, the volume about Bosch is no exception - and in my opinion, the almost calligraphic nature of Bosch's works makes them all the more suitable for the series' format, provided that the bigger paintings are complemented with bleed-to-the-edge details of them.
The text by Laurinda Dixon is very well researched and exposed, being splendidly accompanied by the images. Her decision of structuring the text thematically works very well. Strongly recommended.

It is only a pity that Phaidon could not fulfill the initial (ambitious indeed) project for the series.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Bosch - alchemy and religion decoded 5 Aug 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a brilliant book!, it gives a fascinating insight into the world of the late 15th century seen through the eyes of my favourite artist. This book explains Bosch's paintings and puts them into their wider socio-religious context.

Whilst little is know about just who Bosch was and what life was like for him, Dixon does a superb job of bringing the era to life and letting us glimpse what underpins some of the most famous pictures. Dixon looks at the alchemical influences and imagery in Bosch's painting and gives credit to the much maligned forerunner of today's chemists. (Where would we be without alchemists? - a far poorer place in my opinion.)

Dixon takes each picture and looks at what the various symbols, images and creatures actually mean or represent from within their own culture rather than imposing a modern interpretation on them.

It also cites my second favourite artist (Bruegel) as a follower of Bosch (no surprise then why he's number 2 for me). The surrealists also cite Bosch as one of their key influencers - although looking at his fertile imagination and grotesque images I can't see why :-). In fact, Dali used one of Bosch's images as a central feature of one of his own paintings.
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars invaluable 7 Dec 2004
By kiwishelee - Published on Amazon.com
i've been interested in bosch since i was 8 years old. since i entered college for a major in art history my interest has grown. i picked up this book a couple of months ago and couldn't put it down. dixon has compiled a wonder book filled with facts and interpretations that are both original and insightful. this book eventually led me to do a thesis on bosch. for all students interested in bosch, it has a detailed bibliography in the back, which can lead to multiple new sources. dixon is outstanding once again.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Places Bosch in Context 8 Sep 2006
By J. Moore - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a fantastic book for those interested in Bosch. Readers will appreciate the fatuality of the book. The reality is that little is known about the artist's life. The author makes clear what scholorly research and scientific analysis tells us, and about several different theories surrounding the work. For example: the different styles of paintings could mean different artists working under Bosch in a workshop, or it could just mean he was inconsistent in style. - and nobody knows yet.

This is an important look at the artist who has inspired so many - including the surrealists.

Dixon, to places Bosch into historical context. While many look at Bosch's images and try to paint him as an alchemist, a heretic, or a madman, Dixon approaches Bosch with an open mind, but with an understanding of the times.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Many good points 10 Oct 2009
By artrat - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The text by Laurinda Dixon is a very plausible account of the life and art of Hieronymous Bosch (c.1450-1516), a contemporary of Leonardo Da Vinci. She contends that Bosch's art was firmly grounded in his Catholicism, and in particular derived from his membership of the Brotherhood of Our Lady, a confraternity that ran its own chapel in the town from the time of Bosch's life and was a central institution in the town's affairs. His art also reflected a deep interest in and knowledge of alchemy. Many of the strange objects, and the constant reference to transmogrification in the strange creatures that issued from his imagination, can be accounted for by this cosmological world view.

Bosch came from a family of painters, extended back before his grandfather, who worked in a different town. He was born as Jerome van Aachen, designating the town of his ancestors. The family name of Bosch derived from 's'Hertogenbosch, where his grandfather had moved. His father was one of five professional artists, and he was the third son to practice in the famiy profession.

The main strength of this volume lies in the context Dixon fleshes out and the detail she brings to the table in terms of relevant or related visual material in the form of other contemporary drawings, manuscript illustrations and paintings. A few more of Bosch's original drawings might have been included, but that leads to the question of attribution. Dixon relies on dendrochronology to ascertain the age of the wood panels to date works, and thereby concludes whether or not they are from Bosch's lifetime. This system is not available for drawings. There is also the matter of the family workshop, and to what extent these paintings can be individually attributed to Hieronymous. Only seven of his paintings are signed by him - and his oeuvre has been calcaluated as less than forty. Many of these are multi-panel works, and often quite large, so they would have taken a long time to paint. A number of works that have been documented are now lost. Another strength of the book is the additional plates focussing on details discussed in the text.

On the downside the main text font is in bold, an unconventional and unnecessary conceit that seems to be part of the design system for this series but one that does compromise the overall design of the book. Many of the captions are included on narrow inside margins and are difficult to access when reading. Nevertheless, the book's size fits well in the hand, so it is not cumbersome. At times I resoted to using a magnifying glass to look at the plates and to find some details the author discussed. The appendices, including glossary, chronology and index are most useful.

Overall, a well researched and presented volume that explains the artist and his work in great detail and without fanciful extrapolation. Highly recommended.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting facts, ample illustrations, clear writing 11 Feb 2010
By Goes West - Published on Amazon.com
The books contains many facts and ideas explained in a clear and concise manner. Many books on Bosch are your typical "free talk on art" with vagueness and little information. Dixon provides many interesting facts and makes them visual by supplying a great number of illustrations of clarity and quality unusual for such a small edition. Probably the best book on Bosch I've read so far.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very nice exposition 12 Dec 2011
By Curious - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As I have noted in regards to a more academic work on Bosch that was sponsored by a museum, there is no clear knowing what this painter intended. The work here has very reasonable color illustrations and has a good interpretation. Nobody really has a full feel for this artist's work, at least as to his inner thoughts and motivations. Some aspects of the local history and the contemporary culture are not part of a work such as this and, at least in this case, would be helpful. Bosch may not have been a 'man of his times', but without an appreciation of this, he is a bit less knowable.
It will be subjective as to which interpretation of Bosch's work is the most correct. This work may not be the best, but it is certainly lucid and consistent on its own terms.
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