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Brueghel (c.1525 - 1569)

Related: 1500s - peasant - Northern Renaissance - landscape - Belgian arts - Flanders - realism in the visual arts

Brueghel is often credited as being the first western painter to paint landscapes for their own sake, rather than as a backdrop to a religious allegory. He is also credited as one of the initiators of genre painting, depicting everyday peasants. He is also know for his fantastic art such as the Tower of Babel. [Jul 2006]

Contemporaries: Giuseppe Arcimboldo

The Peasant Wedding (1568) - Pieter Brueghel the Elder

The Peasant Wedding is a 1568 painting by Pieter Brueghel the Elder. In Brueghel's time, the church was the patron of the arts. Why would the church commission a painting of a peasant wedding, instead of some allegorical religious scene? Did Brueghel pay for this work by himself? Was it commissioned by someone other than the church?

Brueghel was not a realistic artist per se. He painted myhological and fantastic paintings of dreamworlds as well.

Inspired by Eva's documentary film.

Triumph of Death (1562) - Pieter Brueghel the Elder

The Tower of Babel (1563) - Brueghel

The "Little" Tower of Babel (c. 1563) - Brueghel


Pieter Brueghel the Elder or Bruegel (c.1525 – September 9, 1569) was a Flemish painter known for his landscapes and peasant scenes. There are records that he was born in Breda, Netherlands but it is uncertain whether the Dutch town of Breda or the Belgian town of Bree, called Breda in Latin, is meant.

He was an apprentice of Pieter Coecke van Aelst, whose daughter Mayke he later married, and was in 1551 accepted as a master in the painters' guild of Antwerp. He travelled to Italy soon after, and then returned to Antwerp before settling in Brussels permanently 10 years later. He died there on September 9, 1569.

He was the father of Pieter Brueghel the Younger and Jan Brueghel the Elder who both became painters, but as they were still infants when their father died neither received any training from him.

Bruegel specialized in landscapes populated by peasants, painted in a simpler style than the Italianate art that prevailed at the time. The most obvious influence on his art is the older Dutch master Hieronymus Bosch. He is nicknamed 'Peasant Brueghel' to distinguish him from other members of the Brueghel dynasty, but is also the one generally meant when the context does not make clear which "Brueghel" is being referred to.

He is often credited as being the first western painter to paint landscapes for their own sake, rather than as a backdrop to a religious allegory. His winter landscapes of 1565 are corroborative evidence of the severity of winters during the Little ice age. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pieter_Brueghel_the_Elder [Jul 2006]

Bruegel: Seven Vices and a Virtue

engraving in the Bosch style - Brueghel (c.1525 - 1569)
image sourced here.

Bruegel: Seven Vices and a Virtue
Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s publisher, the splendidly-named Hieronymus Cock, issued a series of prints based on drawings by the artist on the theme of the seven deadly sins, or vices, around 1556-7. These images were scanned from my copy of Bruegel and Lucas van Leyden: Complete Engravings, Etchings and Woodcuts, edited by Jacques Lavalleye, published by Abrams, ca. 1967.

These compositions, crowded with grotesque and bizarre figures, clearly echo the work of that other Hieronymus, Mr. Bosch, aka Jeroen van Aken, ‘Maître de Bois-le-Duc,’ El Bosco. ‘It has been assumed that Bruegel’s chief reason for imitating Bosch in his graphic work was a commercial one: Bosch was simply more popular than Bruegel, and therefore engravings in the Bosch manner were more marketable than his own prints.’ Of course, Bruegel’s emulation of the elder artist’s style may have been as much an affectionate homage, as it was an opportunistic money-earner. -- via http://www.spamula.net/blog/archives/000560.html [May 2005]

The Triumph of Death

The Triumph of Death is an oil on panel, approximately 117 by 162 centimeters, painted c. 1562 by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. It currently hangs in the Museo del Prado, Madrid.

The painting is a panoramic deathscape: armies of skeletons advance on the hapless living, slitting throats, hauling a wagon full of skulls, and ringing the bell that signifies the death knell of the world. A fool plays the lute while a skeleton behind him plays along; a starving dog nibbles at the face of a child; a skeleton lays his bony hand on the head of a fallen king; a cross sits lonely and impotent in the center of the painting.

Unlike his predecessor, Hieronymus Bosch, the artist who painted the Hellscape called The Garden of Earthly Delights, Brueghel's hordes are composed of skeletons, not demons, suggesting a distinctly atheistic pessimism, and one untempered by any belief in Heaven.

It has been suggested that the painting was inspired by the crushing of peasant uprising by the armies of Spain.

In Underworld, contemporary American author Don Delillo depicts J. Edgar Hoover as fascinated with this particular painting. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Triumph_of_Death [Feb 2005]

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