‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’ – Claire Douglass

At the Private viewing and grand reveal of artist Claire Douglass’ latest painting, she presented to us a re-imagined and contemporary vision of the famous Hieronymus Bosch’s ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’. Beginning the painting in East London during 2011, it’s taken her 7 years to create and re-work the final masterpiece she presents to us today.

Douglass’ Garden

Claire’s painting makes social observations of modern life. Showcasing a number of recognizable characters, brands and situations, the painting highlights the unsustainable culture we’re living in today.

Consisting of around 400 tiny figures, each piece of the painting tells a slightly different narrative. The longer your eye wanders around the large 123 x 257 cm piece, the more contemporary familiarities are recognised. From the likes of Jedward and Kim Kardashian partying, through to children drinking wine under the table and men participating in eating contests – every figure seems to be symbolic of something.

As I recognise each narrative, I find myself mentally taking note of the ridiculousness of these social norms. Douglass does a fantastic job of pointing out and and questioning some of the obscurities of modern day. Crowded with figures, the painting from a distance may seem daunting to look at; but each and every inch of it has valuable meaning waiting to be unpacked and deconstructed. The painting ignites a discussion, which must surely be a step towards a more sustainable future. The populist references made in the garden may one day make us question the cultural significance and true value of such.

A section of Claire Douglass’ ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’ (2018)


Douglass has used a palette comparable to the infamous and highly saturated colours of David Hockney’s paintings. The use of bright colours amongst the evergreen shades of the garden, help to guide the eye into each narrative throughout the painting, and add to the sense of overall busyness. The bright colours also create a happy tone, fitting the subject matter that portrays contemporary pleasures and excitements.

A section of Claire Douglass’ ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’ (2018)

Pieter Bruegel’s ‘Netherlandish Proverbs’

Douglass’s painting shares the same name as Bosch’s renaissance garden and similarly consists of three separate panels to create one masterpiece. Though she declares that her work is thematically more like Bruegel’s ‘Netherlandish Proverbs’ than Bosch’s religious surrealism. Her painting also noticeably shares more similarities in composition with the Netherlandish, hugely populated landscape.

Bruegel’s painting is full of proverbs and depictions of human foolishness. In this respect, the subject is similar to the modern Garden, as Douglass makes a visual list, depicting recognisable yet potentially unsustainable norms of todays culture. The age of rushing to buy the latest gadgets, FAD dieting and fast fashion must surely come to an end?

Pieter Bruegel – ‘Netherlandish Proverbs’ (1559)

To see the digital diary Douglass kept for ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’ – click here.

You can now see the painting hanging in The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition – the worlds largest open submission art show. Running without interruption for 251 years, the show brings together art in all mediums including print, paint, film, sculpture and architecture.

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