Hieronymus Bosch, also Jeroen Bosch, (c. 1450 - August 1516) was a prolific Dutch painter of the 15th and 16th century. Many of his works depict sin and human moral failings; they contain complex, highly original, imaginative, and dense use of symbolic figures and iconography, some of which was obscure even in his own time. He is said to have been an inspiration to the surrealism movement in the 20th century.
His true name was Hieronymus (or Jeroen) van Aken. He signed some of his paintings with Bosch (pronounced as Boss in Dutch), derived from his birthplace 's-Hertogenbosch. In Spanish he is often called El Bosco.
Born to a family of a Flemish painters, he spent most of his life in 's-Hertogenbosch, a town in the south of today's Netherlands, near Tilburg. In 1463, some 4000 houses in the town were destroyed by a catastrophic fire, which the then about 13-year-old Bosch may have witnessed. He became a popular painter and even received commissions from abroad. In 1488 he joined the Brotherhood of Our Lady, an arch conservative religious group of some 40 influential citizens of s'Hertogenbosch.
He produced several triptychs, works of three paintings on wooden panels that are attached to each other. Among his most famous is The Garden of Earthly Delights. This triptych depicts paradise with Adam and Eve and many wonderous animals on the left panel, the earthly delights with numerous nude figures and tremendous fruit and birds on the middle panel, and hell with depictions of fantastic punishments of the various types of sinners on the right panel.
These paintings have a rough surface from the application of paint; this contrasts with the traditional Flemish style of paintings, where the smooth surface attempts to hide the fact that the painting is man-made.
Towards the end of his life, Bosch's style changed and he created paintings with a small number of large figures who appear to almost leave the painting and stand close to the observer. An example is The Crowning with Thorns.
Bosch never dated his paintings and signed only some of them. All in all, about 25 paintings remain today that are attributed to him. Philip II of Spain bought many of Bosch's paintings after the painter's death; as a result, the Prado Museum in Madrid now owns several of his works, including the Garden of Earthly Delights.
Pieter Brueghel the Elder was influenced by Bosch's work and produced several paintings in a similar style, for instance the 1562 work Triumph of Death.
Jos Koldeweij/Bernard Vermet/Barbera van Kooij: Hieronymus Bosch. New Insights Into His Life and Work, NAi Publishers, Rotterdam 2001, ISBN 90-5662-214-5.
Hieronymus Bosch (aka Harry Bosch) is also the name of a fictitious character created by the author Michael Connelly in a series of books. Bosch, the principal protagonist, is an LAPD detective who is named after the painter.