Pish posh

“Pish posh said Hieronymus Bosch.”

- Nancy Willard

I recently stumbled upon an arresting print in The Filson’s Special Collections. This brilliantly tinted picture is something of a mystery, since the signature of the artist is too faint to read. There is also German writing on the back of the print. However, written in English are the words “Herman Gunter Family.” I found this intriguing picture while researching the photography of Paul Gunter, a Louisville photographer in the late 19th and 20th centuries.

Herman Gunter Family

Looking at this print and its striking use of color, I was immediately reminded of Hieronymus Bosch. Bosch, an artist born in 1450, is most celebrated for his triptych, “The Garden of Earthly Delights” (the ever-handy Wikipedia has this educational link, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Garden_of_Earthly_Delights, if you would like to view the painting).

Certainly the subject matter of the two paintings is very different, as Bosch’s triptych presents a paradise on earth, contrasted with a hellish landscape. The Gunter painting, on the other hand, is a family welcoming their patriarch home. However, both the Bosch and Gunter works utilize the scarlet end of the color spectrum to an arresting degree. Observe, for example, the extreme pink shades of the two Gunter daughters’ dresses, contrasted to their alabaster skin. One of the younger children also has a teal dress that ties into the coloring of the wall. In the Bosch, a rose-colored fountain on the left provides sustenance for creatures including a giraffe and an elephant. The middle panel presents various forms of salmon- and sapphire-shaded plant life, new and wondrous.

The Bosch painting could certainly be labeled surreal, given its fantastic subject matter. The Gunter painting, though, also has a touch of surrealism. All the eyes of this family are trained on the arrival of the father, who can be seen entering the front door by the reflection of a mirror in the far left corner of the painting. Indeed, it almost looks as if this figure is entering through the mirror itself. And, there is another mirror in the painting, the one attached to the dresser where the mother is seated writing a letter. Propped against this second mirror is…a picture of the father.

In this painting of the Gunter family, then, we see both brilliant color and reflections within reflections. I hope you enjoy this Boschian-flavored print.

Filson Historical

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