For the first time in 450 years, Hieronymus Bosch’s “The Haywain Triptych” (c.1516) is leaving Madrid. The Noordbrabants Museum in Den Bosch (his hometown) is marking the 500th anniversary of his death with “Hieronymus Bosch: Visions of Genius”, which brings together 20 paintings and 19 drawings.
“The Haywain” is a highlight. A sprawling scene populated with fantastical creatures and strange details, every inch of it has a story to tell. The first panel is the most conventional: Adam and Eve meander through the Garden of Eden, naked and innocent. The central panel is dominated by a cart stacked high with hay, which represents the riches of the world. Seated on the top is a man playing the lute; below are the swarming, screeching masses. Desperate for a few golden handfuls, some get crushed by the wheels. The haystack is slowly dragged by hideous demons across to the raging inferno illuminating the third panel – in which Bosch’s ghoulish imagination takes over.
The painting gives a sense of everyday life in the Netherlands during medieval times – a snapshot of what people both revered and feared. But Bosch’s style is very different from other artists of the time, such as Jan van Eyck or Rogier van der Weyden. Less precise and more allegorical, his work seems strangely modern even half a millennium later. It’s not just the museum that’s celebrating. Throughout the year, the town of Den Bosch will host live events, music, dance and theatre. Get ready for Boschmania. ~ OLIVIA WEINBERG
Visions of Genius Noordbrabants Museum, Den Bosch, Feb 13th to May 8th
Exhibitions at a glance
Electronic Superhighway (Whitechapel Gallery, London, Jan 29th to May 15th). A supercharged show that charts the impact of computers and other networked devices on art from the mid-1960s to today. “Internet Dream” (1994) by Nam June Paik is a highlight.
Leonardo da Vinci: Ten Drawings from the Royal Collection (Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle, Feb 13th to April 24th). Ten of Leonardo’s finest drawings will be going to four galleries in Britain and Ireland this year. Carefully chosen to showcase his extraordinary skill, the drawings are both technical and tender. Dublin is next up.
Visiting Masterpieces: Pairing Picassos (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Feb 13th to June 26th). This practical show tracks Picasso’s transformative style and constant reinterpretation of the human form – robust and revealing.
Seeing Nature: Landscape Masterworks (Seattle Art Museum, Feb 16th to May 21st). Canaletto, Monet, Manet, Turner, Hockney, Richter – and Klimt: in one masterpiece after another, this exhibition reveals the power and beauty of nature in all its guises.
Noir: The Romance of Black in 19th-Century French Drawings and Prints (Getty Museum, LA, Feb 9th to May 15th). When French artists started experimenting with charcoal, black chalk and conté crayon, their works grew darker, deeper and more dramatic.
Ai Weiwei: Zodiac Heads (National Gallery of Prague, Feb 5th to Aug 31st). The Chinese dissident continues to conquer Europe. His 12 bronze animal heads are 1.5 metres wide and, strangely, both fierce and friendly.
From Chagall to Malevich (Albertina, Vienna, Feb 26th to June 26th). Angular, strong, dynamic – here are some of the greatest paintings from the Russian avant-garde. “Portrait of Anna Akhmatova” (1915) by Natan Altman is particularly impressive. ~ OW