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Pieter Bruegel the Elder

ca. 1527-1569


Peasant Wedding Feast
Peasant Wedding Feast (1567)

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, generally considered the greatest Flemish painter of the 16th century, is by far the most important member of the Bruegel family. He was born in a small village in Holland near Breda. Accepted as a master in the Antwerp painters' guild in 1551, he was apprenticed to Coecke van Aelst, a leading Antwerp artist, sculptor, architect, and designer of tapestry and stained glass. Bruegel traveled to Italy in 1551 where he joined the St. Lukas guild. Returning home in 1553, he settled in Antwerp but ten years later moved permanently to Brussels. He married van Aelst's daughter, Mayken, in 1563. His association with the van Aelst family drew Bruegel to the artistic traditions of the Mechelen (now Malines) region in which allegorical and peasant themes run strongly. His paintings, including his landscapes and scenes of peasant life, which are very vulgar and different, yet full of fine details. Bruegel also had an interest in Alpine views, which he included in his drawings. They also expose human weaknesses and follies. He was sometimes called the "peasant Bruegel" from such works as Peasant Wedding Feast (1567).

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Landscape with the Fall of Icarus (1558)

He developed an original style that consisted of storytelling meaning. In subject matter he ranged widely, from conventional Biblical scenes and parables of Christ to such mythological portrayals as Landscape with the Fall of Icarus; religious allegories in the style of Hieronymus Bosch; and social satires. But it was in nature that he found his greatest inspiration. His mountain landscapes have few parallels in European art. Popular in his own day, his works have remained consistently popular. Pieter Bruegel died on 5 September 1969.

Some of his works:

Fall of the Rebel Angels
Netherlandish Proverbs (1559)
Triumph of the Death (1562)
Dulle Griet (Mad Meg) (1562)
Tower of Babel (1563)
Little Tower of Babel (1563)
Adorations of the King (1564)
Procession to Calvary (1564)
Winter Landscape with a Bird Trap (1565)
Hunters in the Snow
The Harvesters (1565)
The Painters and the Buyer (1565)
Beggars (1568)
The Peasant Dance (1568)


Art Gardens Fine Prints . Pieter Brueghel the Elder [Online] Available (14 May 1999) <http://artgardens.com/Artists/brueghel_pieter_the_elder.htm>

Piosch, Nicholas . Pieter Brueghel the Elder [Online] Available (14 May 1999) <http://metalab.unc.edu/wm/paint/auth/bruegel/>

Pieter Brueghel the Elder. (1995). Encyclopedia Americana. International Edition.

Images from <http://www.artchive.com/artchive/B/bruegel.html> Original scan by Mark Harden.

Edited by: Tammy Quach, Von Steuben Math and Science Academy, Chicago IL
Researched by: Alex Pawlukowsky, Von Steuben Math and Science Academy, Chicago IL
Written by: Asha Spencer, Von Steuben Math and Science Academy, Chicago IL
May 14, 1999

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