In this series of articles I am going to concentrate on Pieter Bruegel a completely different Rationalist from Albrecht Durer. Most of his paintings reflect teeming pictures of Peasants and proletarians playing , drinking and carousing. He painted some religious and Aristocratic paintings but as a humanist he did not mix in the same company as Durer and he faced more acute political problems than ever Durer Faced.
Walter Gibson in his commentary sets the scene for Bruegel’s development.
” Bruegel’s career coincides with the most brilliant phase of Flemish Renaissance. during most of the 16th Century the Netherlands enjoyed great Material prosperity”. .
” With her wealth and cosmopolitan milieu Antwerp soon became a major centre of European Culture”. .
Gibson continues to show how Flemish art had a different styles.
” 16th century Netherlandish painting displays a rich diversity of styles and influences in general. Two distinct tendencies can be discerned , the first style was characterised by idealised figures influenced by Italian and antique art”. .
” Landscape painting enjoyed the greatest vogue with the picture buying public. Already in the early 16th Century Joachim Painter had won fame for his numerous pictures of religion figures placed before immense visions”. .
Bruegel is shown to favour mountain and snowy scenes .
” That Bruegel was fired by a similar enthusiasm for mountainous scenery is demonstrated by the circuitous route of his alpine tour”. .
” Fall of Icarus this ancient myth was well known to the Renaissance through the Metamorphoses of Ovid (Roman Poet)”. .
The fall of Icarus is of course well known as a mythological tale and one of the few Mythological subjects Bruegel painted unlike other Renaissance Painters like Titian and Raphael.
” The only Mythological subject ever painted by Bruegel . The Fall of Icarus was commonly understood during the period as a parable of the fate of those who foolishly aspire to rise above their rank in life”. .
” Bruegel’s allegorical method is well exemplified in the allegory of Lust this vice is personified by a nude woman who caresses her demon lover”. .
Bruegel’s last years in Antwerp were to see definite changes in his Landscape style,
” Bruegel’s last two or three years in Antwerp were marked by new developments in his Landscape style”. .
” Bruegel explored scenery of an entirely different sort. a drawing of 1560 for example shows several cottages with thatched roofs nestling among trees and a peasant lounges at the gate gossiping with travellers on the road”. .
In 1563 Bruegel amongst others faced Religious persecution and fled Antwerp.
” The Paintings which can be assigned to Bruegel during the years 1564-6 present an almost bewildering diversity of stylistic tendencies. Bruegel was also influenced by other late gothic artists but far more significant was the art of Raphael and the Italian Renaissance”. .
” The impact of Italian Art is even more apparent in a small painting which Bruegel did the following year The Christ and the Woman taken in adultery of 1565″. .
Gibson mentions the Hunters in the Snow as a significant painting by Bruegel.
” Bruegel seems to have been fascinated with Winter scenes during the Mid 1560’s”. .
” The Hunters in the Snow represents a bitter day in the depth of winter. 3 peasants trudge down the hill. The all pervading bleakness of the Landscape is reinforced by the choice of colours. the figures and cottage walls contribute the only warm accents to the frigid tonalities”..
Bruegel shows aspects of the Flemish Countryside which appear homely and appealing.
” As in several of his earlier alpine engravings Bruegel combined homely details of the Flemish countryside with a mountainous panorama. The Painting however surpasses the prints in the firm structure and grandeur of its composition”. .
” Bruegel brought a new sense of structure and un paralleled epic grandeur inspired by his Alpine experiences”. .
Gibson concludes with his last two comments on Pieter Bruegel.
” His later paintings show a synthesis of Italianate compositional principles with his native Flemish realism which was without equal in the 16th Century”. .
” If Bruegel’s works were thus endlessly multiplied to satisfy collectors they also exerted a profound effect on the Dutch and Flemish artists who followed him”. .
This completes the first part of my article on Pieter Bruegel the Elder.
- BRUEGEL: WALTER GIBSON.PG.18