This is the concluding part of my articles on Pieter Bruegel the great 16th Century painter from Antwerp.
Michael Levy in his Book From Giotto -Cezanne A concise History of Painting comments on Bruegel’s work.
” To unite fact and fantasy in Landscape was reserved for the last and greatest of Antwerp painters in the 16th Century Pieter Bruegel. Bruegel visited Italy but Italian art seems to have left him unaffected”. .
” Bruegel could invoke a surrealist allegorical scene (before Surrealism emerged in the 2oth century) as in Land of Cockayne where gluttony has surfeited , the men sprawled under the table”. .
Levy also comments on Bruegel’s famous painting Hunters in the Snow.
” There is a hint of Archaism in the dark shapes of the hunters and hounds plodding through the Snow”. .
” In Dark day there is no specific drama , no contrast of light and dark; only a group of peasants pollarding trees in bitter February weather. All the raw bleakness of Northern weather is in the dark day. In it a painter comes completely to terms with his environment and achieves his masterpiece in that way”. .
In Bruegel the complete Paintings Rose Marie and Rainer Hagen discuss Bruegel’s Children’s games which appears to be crammed full of peasants and their Children .
” In the Children’s games of 1560 The work fascinates but also disturbs for reasons of both content and form. There is no ideal vantage point from which the picture should be viewed”. .
” Bruegel’s Century saw the exploration of the Earth’s surface , a fresh survey of the Heavens , The examination of the human body and the cataloguing of Animal and Plant works”..
The Hagen’s discuss the various subjects which dominated 16th Century culture mainly Religion and antiquity.
” The subjects most frequently treated by European painters in Bruegel’s day and age were taken from the spheres of Religion and classical antiquity”..
” In his day Bruegel was the most important of these painters displaying a pronounced realistic touch”. .
The Hagen’s assert that it was not until the 16th Century that Landscape Painting came into its own.
” It was not until Bruegel’s century that the History of Landscape painting really began. It had played a subordinate role in Christian painting towards the end of the Middle ages”. .
” The Fall of Icarus of 1558 Bruegel must have been preoccupied with or even disturbed by the rebellion against Nature, the Cosmos God, the motif of hubris for he treated it again and again”. .
Bruegel was able in his work to show spatial depth increase his ability as a painter to show two and three dimensional work in such a perspective which reveals the picture plane in a brilliant way.
” In order to render spatial depth Bruegel once again places the observer on a elevated point so that he sees the Farmer from diagonally above. This technical trick of angular displacement heightens the impression of great distance which the painter was evidently seeking to convey”. .
” Bruegel also occupies an important position in the History of Landscape painting on account of his ability to convey to the observer the transformation of nature in the course of the seasons”. .
Bruegel in most of his paintings showed what was similar between Man and nature .
” The Italians and the Romantics emphasised what distinguished Man from animal and Plant world. Bruegel in contrast emphasised their similarities, the natural begotten not made element in Man”. .
” The Magpie on the gallows. As already mentioned the gallows was specifically associated with Spanish Rule. And Alba’s (Spanish Conqueror of the Netherlands and Belgium) reign of terror was based upon gossip or renunciation”. .
Bruegel was commenting on the political situation as well as Man’s place in the order of things.
” Bruegel was thus presenting his picture of Man and simultaneously commenting on the political situation”. .
” Bruegel’s conception of man is more familiar to us than it could ever have been for 19th Century Museum visitors. this is the consequence of the artistic innovations during the intervening years but also of the major wars and ideological conflicts. Bruegel saw Man as a product of nature”. .
Kim Woods in her description of the Northern Canon points out the attributes of Pieter Bruegel the elder.
” In the 1550’s and 1560’s Bruegel probably enjoyed the status of a well to do Townsman but his paintings bear witness to close knowledge of peasant customs , whether from Family background or deliberate observation or both” .
” Ortelius ( A Humanist and Friend of Bruegel) champions his friend using the classical sources beloved of the humanists thereby emphasising Bruegel’s humanist credentials . Bruegel’s known contacts with Humanists have led to the speculation that his artistic approach was conditioned by the same classical sources that inspired his friends”. .
This completes my articles on Pieter Bruegel The Elder , one of the great Landscapist of his time and close observer of Proletarian culture in 16th Century Netherlands.
- FROM GIOTTO-CEZANNE A CONCISE HISTORY OF PAINTING: MICHAEL LEVY.PG.98
- BRUEGEL THE COMPLETE PAINTINGS : ROSE MARIE AND RAINER HAGEN.PG.33
- THE CHANGING STATUS OF THE ARTIST: PIETER BRUEGEL THE ELDER AND THE NORTHERN CANON:KIM WOODS .PG.177