Bruegel, Pieter the Elder

Pieter Bruegel (about 1525-69), usually known as Pieter Bruegel the Elder to distinguish him from his elder son, was the first in a family of Flemish painters. He spelled his name Brueghel until 1559, and his sons retained the "h" in the spelling of their names.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, generally considered the greatest Flemish painter of the 16th century, is by far the most important member of the family. He was probably born in Breda in the Duchy of Brabant, now in The Netherlands. 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 or 1552, completing a number of paintings, mostly landscapes, there. 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, stress the absurd and vulgar, yet are full of zest and fine detail. They also expose human weaknesses and follies. He was sometimes called the "peasant Bruegel" from such works as Peasant Wedding Feast (1567).

1107 x 774 150.6K
150.6K, 1107 x 774

Peasant wedding
Painted: 1568
Oil on wood
114 x 164 cm
Kunsthistorisches Museum

He developed an original style that uniformly holds narrative, or story-telling, 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. Bruegel died in Brussels between Sept. 5 and 9, 1569.

1143 x 755 178.8K
178.8K, 1143 x 755

Landscape with the Fall of Icarus
Painted: 1558
Oil on canvas, mounted on wood
73.5 x 112 cm
Musees royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique


792 x 1082 205.9K
205.9K, 792 x 1082

The Adoration of the Kings
Painted: 1564 Oil on canvas
111 x 83.5 cm
The National Gallery
Winter Landscape with a Bird Trap
Painted: 1565
38 x 56 cm
Wilton House

1145 x 717 224.6K
224.6K, 1145 x 717

917 x 681 182.2K
182.2K, 917 x 681

The Harvesters
Painted: 1565
Oil on wood
118.1 x 160.7 cm
Metropolitan Museum of Art
New York
The "Little" Tower of Babel
Painted: 1563
Oil on panel
60 x 74.5 cm
Museum Boymans-van Beuningen

1021 x 844 184.8K
184.8K, 1021 x 844

800 x 564 115.5K
115.5K, 800 x 564

The Fall of the Rebel Angels
Musée des Beaux-Arts
The Tower of Babel
Painted: 1563
Oil on oak panel
114 x 155 cm
Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien

1061 x 800 196.0K
196.0K, 1061 x 800

737 x 600 89.9K
89.9K, 737 x 600

The Beggars
Painted: 1568 Wood
The painter and the buyer
Painted: 1565
Pen and black ink on brown paper
25 x 21.6 cm

651 x 778 153.4K
153.4K, 651 x 778

1065 x 786 231.8K
231.8K, 1065 x 786

The Procession to Calvary
Painted: 1564
Oil on canvas
124 x 170 cm
Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien
The Peasant Dance
Painted: 1568
Oil on oak panel
114 x 164 cm
Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien

1111 x 776 154.4K
154.4K, 1111 x 776

1089 x 776 216.8K
216.8K, 1089 x 776

The Triumph of Death
Painted: 1562
Oil on panel
117 x 162 cm
Museo del Prado
The Hunters in the Snow
Painted: 1565
Oil on panel
117 x 162 cm
Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien

1022 x 753 217.6K
217.6K, 1022 x 753

1089 x 786 220.2K
220.2K, 1089 x 786

Netherlandish Proverbs
Painted: 1559
Oil on oak panel
117 x 163 cm
Dulle Griet
(Mad Meg)
Painted: 1562
Oil on panel
Museum Mayer van den Bergh

1083 x 784 200.2K
200.2K, 1083 x 784

 Pieter Brueghel the Younger
Pieter Brueghel the Younger (1564-1638) was the elder of two sons born just a few years before their father's death. Known as "Hell Brueghel" because of his fascination with hobgoblins, fires, and grotesque figures, he made his career in Antwerp, where he became a master in the guild in 1585. He is best known as a copyist of his father's paintings, as they were both popular and scarce. In his own canvases, such as Village Fair and The Crucifixion, he shows a firm grasp of space and movement. His son, Pieter Brueghel III (1589-1640), was also known primarily as a copyist.

Jan Brueghel (1568-1625), called the "velvet Brueghel," was the second son of Pieter Bruegel the Elder and, like his brother Pieter Brueghel the Younger, made his career in Antwerp. Known for his still lifes of flowers and for his landscapes, he was a friend of Peter Paul Rubens and collaborated with him in paintings such as Adam and Eve in Paradise. He specialized in small wooded scenes that were finely finished and brightly colored. His style was perpetuated by his sons Jan Brueghel II (1601-78) and Ambrosius Brueghel (1617-75), whose sons carried on the tradition into the 18th century.