Old Masters in NY Galleries in the 1960s
September 14, 2022 11:39 PM   Subscribe

Would Hieronymus Bosch paintings have been displayed at a SoHo gallery in the 1960s? (Specifics inside)

In Siri Hustvedt's novel The Blazing World, Harriet Burden meets her husband, Felix Loyd "standing in his gallery late on Saturday afternoon in SoHo, contemplating an artist who has long since vanished but had a moment of glory in the sixties: Hieronymous Hirsch*". Then the footnote writes "There is no documentary evidence of an artist by that name. Why Burden twists the name of the fifteenth-century Flemish painter Hieronymous Bosch, thereby fictionalizing an autobiographical story, is unknown". (These are on p15 of my copy of the book if you want to look them up)

This part of the book has been bothering me for ages because as far as I know there are not many Bosch paintings still in existence, and those that are wouldn't be in galleries in NY. However, the 1960s were 60 years ago (!!), so times were maybe different then? Or perhaps this passage is meant for us to cast doubt on both Burden and her biographer I.V. Hess? Does anyone know anything about either the book or the art?
posted by Literaryhero to Society & Culture (4 answers total)
 
Best answer: For what it's worth, I'm not reading this excerpt as "Hustvedt is saying that Bosch paintings were displayed in galleries in NYC in the 1960s," I'm reading it as "the footnote narrator is smugly leaping to conclusions based on not being able to find record of an artist called Hieronymous Hirsch."

Bosch, after all, is not "an artist who has long since vanished but had a moment of glory in the sixties."

Is the footnote narrator unreliable or blinkered in other ways? Pale Fire is the classic example of this kind of thing (and the title The Blazing World might hint at that), but I haven't read the Hustvedt book, so the rest of the context of the novel might undercut this interpretation.
posted by verbminx at 1:51 AM on September 15 [5 favorites]


Best answer: Have read the book and what verbminx suggests is correct: the entire point of the novel is that all versions of what happened are unreliable, and Hustvedt uses this to raise the question of our understanding of art and artists (and writers and writing, for that matter). It's a theme she has been exploring since her first novel, The Blindfold.
posted by Ardnamurchan at 7:29 AM on September 15 [2 favorites]


Best answer: I don't know about Bosch, but I do know that old masters were flooding the New York market post war for obvious reasons so itsnot unfeasible
posted by PinkMoose at 7:37 AM on September 15


Response by poster: Have read the book and what verbminx suggests is correct: the entire point of the novel is that all versions of what happened are unreliable, and Hustvedt uses this to raise the question of our understanding of art and artists (and writers and writing, for that matter).

Ok, this was largely my take on it, too. I just wanted to make sure that I wasn't making any weird assumptions. Thanks!
posted by Literaryhero at 7:05 PM on September 15 [1 favorite]


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