Up for an art blowout to end all art blowouts? Ready for a year-long, monster-of-an-art-party in a medieval city where you can revel with human and mythical beings alike?

Well, break out the Heineken because the Dutch have got one for you!

It’s National Event Year Jheronimus Bosch 500, and its many festivities are going on from now until the end of 2016 in the city of S-Hertogenbosch (also known as Den Bosch) in the Netherlands.  The national event year commemorates the 500th anniversary of the death of the famous late-medieval Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch (c.1450 – 1516) who was born in Den Bosch where he painted all of his life.

Experience a Homecoming for Bosch’s Spirit and Famous Art Works

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Detail of “The Garden of Earthly Delights” by H. Bosch | Museo del Prado, Madrid

So extraordinary is this event that some travelers to Europe have quickly re-arranged their itineraries to stop by Den Bosch for some of the fun.

National Event Year Jheronimus Bosch 500 is Den Bosch’s over-the-top way of celebrating their native son and his fantastical works of art. This event offers special museum exhibits, “Bosch experiences,” light shows, mythical-creature climbs, boat tours, parades, concerts, circuses, dances, and other festivities all throughout 2016.

On the culinary front, some restaurants are offering themed menus that include dinner service on specially designed “Bosch plates” that diners can arrange to keep. You name it, it’s going on over there!

 

Here are a few highlights of the city where Bosch 500 takes place.

 The City of Den Bosch

Boats in the Harbor in the City Center, Evening.

Den Bosch was originally built as a fortress city around the year 1185 on the site of a primeval forest owned by Duke Henry I of Brabant.  Despite being a fortress city, or on account of being one, the city has had a catastrophic history.  Almost as soon as it was built, it was destroyed in a war with Holland and Gelre and then rebuilt, only to be nearly destroyed again by a fire.

The city is now the capital of the province of North Brabant in the southern Netherlands and is protected by brick walls and interlaced with canals. Den Bosch is also a marvelous mix of medieval and modern architecture that includes St John’s Cathedral, one of the world’s most spectacular cathedrals.  To a large extent, it’s a brick city that was created by many artisans over the years and that retains its medieval character.

St. John’s Cathedral

There is plenty for you to see during the year-long celebrations.  Here are some special ones.

The Earthly Delights of Jheronimus Bosch 500

Visit unique exhibits of Bosch’s art.

A rare gem of a show, the “Jheronimus Bosch. Visions of Genius Exhibit” at the Het Noordbrabants museum presents about 20 of the 25 or so Bosch paintings that survive today.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see so many of the artist’s works together in the town in which they were originally created.

The museum has sold more than 350,000 tickets to its exhibit online, and, as you may imagine, tickets are scarce.  For the last two weeks of the exhibit, though, the museum will be extending its hours to meet demand.  It will be open from 8 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily from April 22 to May 6, and will feature a Night of the Owl night in which it will be open continuously for 39 hours from 8 a.m. May 7th till 11 p.m. on May 8th.  Hoo Hoo Who would have thought?

But, if you can’t get tickets to “Visions of Genius,” you could plan to see a subsequent exhibit at this museum called “Tribute to Hieronymus Bosch in the Congo,” which is the Belgian artist Jan Fabre’s salute to Bosch.   Or visit the Jheronimus Bosch Art Center, which is dedicated to presenting information on the artist and his works.

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“Haywain Triptych” by Hieronymus Bosch | Photo Evert Elzinga

Learn about Bosch under the stars

Den Bosch’s market square serves as the quaint backdrop for a very special light show that projects the story of Hieronymous Bosch’s life onto the medieval buildings of the square.  The show superimposes the story of his life on the facades of the buildings of the old market square, which was where he lived in a simple house so many, many years ago.  It’s outsized fun to be sure!

 

Hieronymus Bosch Light Show, City Center, Dem Bosch

Hieronymus Bosch Light Show, City Center, Den Bosch

Cruise through heaven and hell

Tour Den Bosch via the Binnendieze, which is the canal network that runs through parts of the city.  The “Heaven and Hell Boat Trip,” as it is called, offers a different perspective of the city and of the famous painter.  This canal network snakes under and through different parts of the city.  Along the way, you will see a film called “Heaven and Hell”.  The tour, which is given in English or Dutch, winds up at the Jheronimus Bosch Art Center where you can further acquaint yourself with the painter’s life and works of art.

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Artist’s Tunnel on the Bosch Canal Tour

Wander among mythical creatures on the wondrous climb

Dragons, monsters, and fabulous creatures like those in a Bosch painting populate the flying buttresses of Saint John’s Cathedral approximately 100 feet high above the city. Walk among them by taking the Wonderlijke klim (wondrous climb).  This is a truly unique opportunity to see and commune with these strange figures that look out over the city of Den Bosch.  At the very least, it’s a wildly different view of Saint John’s.

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Een Wonderlijke KLim | Marc Mulder

Where a painter like Bosch ended  up after his death will remain a mystery to us.  But one thing’s for sure, National Event Year Jheronimus Bosch 500 is such an incredible tribute that we’ll likely hear some reports by revelers of seeing the very spirit of Hieronymus Bosch himself.

Getting There from North America

To get to s- Hertogenbosch from North America, you can fly into Amsterdam or Rotterdam and then take a very scenic train ride directly there.  The train from Amsterdam or Rotterdam takes only about 1 hour.

Will you be attending this event or a different art party? Maybe you have thoughts about this painter or others like him. We’d love to hear; so leave your comments below and let’s talk art.

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