Bruegel, Pieter, the Elder

from The New Book of Knowledge®

ART HISTORY ON DEMAND > Artists

The painter Pieter Bruegel (or Brueghel) the Elder is best known for landscapes and peasant scenes. He was born in the Netherlands sometime between 1525 and 1530. Very little is known about his early life, but he became a master in the Antwerp Painters Guild in 1551.

Like many artists of his day, Bruegel looked to Italy for inspiration. He was in Rome in 1553 and returned home across the Alps by 1555. He had always been interested in landscape painting, but his travels in the Alps led him to portray nature in a grander and more unified way.

In Antwerp, Bruegel made drawings for engravings. The drawings often portrayed serious ideas in humorous form. They showed his interest in popular subjects, his observations on the foolishness of people, and his concern for freedom of religion. Bruegel's paintings were usually made for private patrons. They dealt with many themes. He was interested in the human figure. In many of his paintings, crowds of people cover the canvas, creating a brightly colored pattern. But he was also concerned with nature and how it affects people's lives. This can be seen in the five paintings that remain of a series called the Months. Hunters in the Snow (1565) is a winter scene from the series, probably representing January.

In 1563 Bruegel married and moved to Brussels. He died there on September 9, 1569. Two of his sons also became famous painters. Pieter the Younger (1564-1638) made many copies and variations of his father's works. Jan (1568-1625) was a painter whose elegant style earned him the nickname Velvet Bruegel.

Lola B. Gellman
City University of New York

 

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