Bosch the Expressionist

by Larry Solomon, copyright © 2002


The Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, tenth edition (1995) defines expressionism, another major modern art movement, as "a theory or practice in art of seeking to depict the subjective emotions and responses that objects arouse in the artist." Thus, unlike most art, expressionism seeks to externalize internal emotions through images, often human faces.

Christ Carrying the Cross, 1516, Ghent

In 1604, J de Siguenza, one of the earliest Bosch scholars, wrote "The difference which in my opinion exists between the paintings of this man and those of others consists in that the latter seek to paint men as they outwardly appear, whereas he has the courage to paint them as they are inwardly." Figure 19 is an example of expressionism with the grotesquely exaggerated facial expressions of Christ's persecutors. It was unusual in Bosch's time to show such intense emotion.