Welcome! This website has information on courses I'm teaching at the University of Toronto's School of Continuing Studies and assorted musings on art.  Click on the labels at right to find particular topics. Thanks for visiting, and if you'd like to get in touch, it's isherwood dot barbara at g mail dot com.

18th Century Rich People Problems: A Swarm of Cupids!

Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Swarm of Cupids, 1767. Musée du Louvre. Source.

Spring seems like the ideal time to revel in the delightful excesses of 18th century art. Please join me for Art of the 18th Century, an eight week course beginning on Tuesday, April 4, at U of T. More cupids than you can shake a stick at!


Leopard, Meissen, ca. 1750. Hard-paste porcelain. Gardiner Museum, Toronto.

Fragments of the past

Ruins of 12th century church at the Catacombs of St. John in Siracusa

Bosch’s Mysteries Revealed?


Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights (detail), c. 1503. Source.

The 500 year anniversary of the death of Flemish master Hieronymus Bosch has brought forth a wealth of new books, two exhibitions, and two new documentaries. Hieronymus Bosch, Touched By The Devil is screening in Toronto’s Bloor Hot Docs Theatre at the end of August. The second, The Curious World of Hiëronymus Bosch, produced by the excellent team behind the Exhibition on Screen series, will be out in late 2016.

Hieronymus Bosch, The Last Judgement, (detail), 1504-08. Source.

But there’s an older one called The Mysteries of Hieronymus Bosch on YouTube that is also well worth watching. As a dyed-in-the-wool sceptic, I can relate to filmmaker Nicholas Baum’s desire to reject some of the more outlandish theories about Bosch's nightmarish imagery (such as that the artist belonged to a late Medieval “Back to Eden” free love cult) and dig into the scant details of Bosch's life to discover a plausible explanation these wonderfully bizarre chimeras. You can see this 1980 film here.