Hugo van der Goes in the Berlin Picture Gallery: Genius in large format – culture


Gustav Seibt

The Dutch painter Hugo van der Goes is one of the most enigmatic figures in art history. Next to Jan van Eyck and Rogier van der Weiden he is the third main master of the Old Netherlandish painting in the “Autumn of the Middle Ages”. Johan Huizinga used this metaphor to characterize this epoch in his classic, in competition with Jacob Burckhardt’s “Renaissance Culture in Italy”. Van der Goes was probably born in Ghent, Flemish, in 1440 and died in a monastery near Brussels around 1482/83. In the last years of his life he was considered insane, there was a suicide attempt. His despair, which was also articulated in religious terms, was documented, making him an early example of the European theme of “genius and madness”, with repercussions mainly in the 19th century, up to Vincent van Gogh.

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