Pieter Bruegel The Elder Biography | Oil Paintings
1525 Breugel, NED – 9-9-1569 Brussels, BELBack to Artist IndexView Artists Paintings
Pieter Bruegel the Elder was also known as Brueghel the Elder to distinguish him from his sons, was born in the village of the same name near Breda.
He lived and worked in important cultural centers during an extremely eventful period of history. Despite this, relatively little is known about his life. His habit of signing and dating his works, however, has permitted a reliable chronology of his paintings, drawings, and prints. A member of the Antwerp Painters Guild, his work shows few signs of the local classically inspired school or the influence of the Italian Renaissance.
He studied under Pieter Coecke van Aelst and was greatly influenced by Hieronymous Bosch, from whom he developed his own peculiar style of late medieval Gothic fantasy. About 1550 he traveled in France and Italy before returning to Brussels, where his most important paintings were executed. In Brussels, his two sons, both painters, were born Pieter the Younger and Jan, who specialized in finely executed still lifes.
In 1565 he produced the great cycle of The Seasons, shown below, his most complex masterpiece and most mature work. It became part of Emperor Rudolf II Prague collection and reflected the Hapsburg's rather anti-conformist tastes. Only 5 of the 6 panels survive. They are all painted with an interesting view from above as if he were in a tree looking down at the scene.
Bruegel's most complex masterpiece The Seasons.
Gloomy Day the variety of weather conditions and light effects, rendered with surprising sensitivity and naturalness, is perhaps the most spectacular feature of this cycle of paintings. He is an extremely original artist who is sometimes erroneously considered almost a sixteenth-century naif painter.
Hay Harvest possesses the rhythm and gaiety of a country festival. The downward looking viewpoint displays Bruegel's mastery of landscape painting. Born and bred in the flat countryside of Flanders, the Alps made a strong impression on him when he saw them for the first time on his journey to Italy. The memory jagged mountain tops emerge in images that combine reality and fantasy in a highly evocative manner.
The Hunters In The Snow representing the coldest months of the year is the most celebrated in the cycle. Beginning from a vantage point that is higher than the foreground, Bruegel arranges this composition around the contrast between the white of the snow and the black outlines of the figures, trees, and buildings. This simple scheme accentuates his mastery of the use of light in the landscape in the background. Few other works of art manage to convey so skillfully the atmosphere of icy air and impending snow that surrounds the mountain peaks. The children's games on the frozen pond add a delightful touch of jollity that enlivens the whole scene.
Return Of The Herd he creates an unusual circular rhythm that links the foreground to the background. This same scheme is also used in other paintings. In the world of peasants and nature, the movement of the figures and the clouds passing in the partly overcast sky become a metaphor for the cyclical rhythm of time and the seasons.
The Harvesters is bathed in the haze of midsummer. The sultry air and weariness of the peasants, contrasts with the golden wheat, while our gaze is drawn further and further into a sweeping panoramic view. Compared to the other scenes in the cycle, this panel is more inspired by a human and social condition.
Bruegel's culture, like that of his 'spiritual master” Bosch, was largely based on folklore, proverbs, and sayings. In this remarkable painting Flemish Proverbs, he manages to illustrate over one hundred different proverbs, which are primarily devoted to the theme of human gullibility and inspired by rural life, within a single landscape.
His famous Peasant Wedding showing the bride, plump-cheeked and awkward, sits at the center of the table in front a green drape and the groom may be the young man gobbling his food. This banquet is a rustic version of the “Land of Plenty”. The guests eager to lay their hands on the platefuls of food brought in by the two men in aprons.
In Brussels his work took on a new monumental compactness, abandoning the abundant detail typical of his early career, but his early death interrupted this promising development. On his deathbed, he reportedly ordered his wife to burn the most subversive of his drawings to protect his family from political persecution resulting from conflicts between the Catholic Church and the Protestant Reformation.
Pieter Bruegel the Elder was nicknamed 'Peasant Brueghel' from his custom of distinguishing himself in order to mingle with the peasants and beggars who formed the subjects of his rural paintings. Although he was a master of genre subjects his reputation rests mainly on his large and complex works, involving fantastic scenery and elaborate architecture, imbued with atmosphere and a sensitivity seldom achieved earlier.
Popular in his own day, Pieter Bruegel the Elder works have remained consistently popular to this day, enough to classify this painter as one of the world's artist.
Art Movement History: Northern Renaissance, Flemish School
Artists Influencing Bruegel: Pieter Coecke van Aelst, Hieronymous Bosch
He Traveled To Belgium, France, Italy, Switzerland
Artist's Biography compiled by Albert L. Mansour at The World's Artist.