Compare and contrast Hieronymous Bosch's Garden of Early Delights and Salvador Dali's Persistence of Memory, visually, as well as the pieces' differences and similarities in regarding historical...

Compare and contrast Hieronymous Bosch's Garden of Early Delights and Salvador Dali's Persistence of Memory, visually, as well as the pieces' differences and similarities in regarding historical context and the periods of art in which each were created.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Modern viewers of Bosch's painting, having been exposed to Surrealistic art, are probably less shocked by the imagery and distorted, gangly figures than those of his Renaissance audience. In Garden of Early Delights, Hieronymus Bosch (whose real name is Jerome van Aken) was, indeed, a visionary painter who employed free association and "bizarre dislocated imagery," along with tremendous imaginative insight, in order to portray the three worlds of his age. While his contemporary critics viewed this painting as a religious illustration, which was typical of the age, modern critics feel it is more illustrative of proverbs as, for instance, there is a pair of lovers in a glass bubble which is a visual depiction of the proverb, "Pleasure is as fragile as glass."

This innovative painting is a tri-fold with the creation of the world depicted on the outside; once opened, the left panel is an illustrated account of original sin, also in Genesis, with the continuation and proliferation of sin in the world in the middle, and on the right panel is a depiction of hell and its "nightmarish penalties."  Especially in the last panel is there an exhibition of imaginative insight and irrational association which became a precursor to Surrealism. Nevertheless, Bosch's images are not as bizarre and disassociated as Surrealistic images, for they conjure the apprehensions of many and depict known symbols. For example, as one art critic points out,

The fruits, animals and exotic mineral structures in the background, for instance, have all been identified as erotic symbols based on popular songs, sayings and slang expressions of Bosch's era. Thus plucking fruit or flowers was a metaphor for copulation, while the peelings, which the lovers find so fascinating, was a byword for worthlessness.

Thus, there is a narrative ability exhibited in Bosch's work that is not characteristic of Surrealism. In Salivador Dali's painting, Persistence of Memory, while there is a symbolic use of clocks as the impermanent nature of trying to control time that is suggestive of Bosch's symbolism in the depiction of the Seven Deadly Sins with the vain woman staring forever at her reflection on the tail end of a demon and the hunter impaled by a hare, Dali's clocks that drape limply over branches are more hallucinatory and without any rational control or association other than with the title of the painting. Thus, Dali's style is "ultra-realistic" and beyond that of Bosch's which is more illustrative. For, Dali seeks to objectify the irrational that is, as the poet André Bréton, founder of Surrealism, said, "outside all moral and aesthetic consciousness." His famous soft watches were allegedly inspired by Dali's experience of eating Camembert cheese. Also, Dali paints a dream-image in his Persistence of Memory; the distorted watches, whose faces are melting away, lie in a golden glare at once heavenly and sinister that is yet earthly in its three-dimensional depiction (Bosch's painting is not three-dimensional). 

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