Pieter Bruegal is considered one of the greatest Flemish painters of the 16th century, famous for his landscapes that were vigorous, and witty, often with scenes of peasant life that are particularly renowned for their irony. One of the best details about Pieter Brugel is that he signed and dated most of his landscape works, so his artistic evolution can be traced through his early landscapes, where he is showing his affinity with the low country.
He also showed a profound and elemental insight into man and his relationship with the world of nature through his work. In the early 1500's when Bruegal was establishing himself, northern art was strongly influenced by Italian mannerism. What is iconic about Pieter Brugel is that despite his many trips to Italy for studying purposes, he always remained independent of the dominant artistic interest, deliberately focusing on revived Gothic styles as his focal point for departure through his own complex and highly varied artistic forms. Most of the information about Bruegal was gathered through the help of a biographer who wrote about Bruegal in 1604- although many of the details surrounding his life are speculated and hard to piece together.
in 1555 Bruegal had returned to the Antwerp painters guild, where he spent his times in the mountains of the Alps, drawing exquisite mountain drawings and sketches which formed the basis for his later paintings that are composites made to investigate organic life forms in nature- established as the early Antwerp Style. Bruegel entered the publisher in Antwerp because he wished to become a designer for engravings, publishing his own engravings as early as 1558- including famous engraving series the Seven Deadly Sins- which contains his own signature, which would be considered a sign of growing importance for the artist. His types of works created his own kind of viewpoint about the folly of man with his own personal views of human error and depravity, and he later created his own published painting in 1559, but it still contained several aspects of his early master Bosch, further establishing himself with the last of his anthologies "Tower of Babel" in 1563, which was intended to symbolize human futility and ambition, specifically targeting the spirit of commercialism that had been sweeping through his home in Antwerp, and this is portrayed through a panorama view of a vast expanse of "world" representing his subsequent works.
When Pieter Bruegel the Elder left Antwerp, he took up residence in Brussels in 1563 until the day he died in 1569, and while the reasons he left the alps are unknown, his reputation as perhaps the greatest Netherlandish painter has its stakes in his iconic and descriptive engravings that were meticulously detailed and perfected in Bruegels unfortunately brief but productive lifetime.
In the last few years of his life, he produced a portrayal of peasants, living and working close to the soil representing the unity of humans with nature- in December and January, the Hunters in the Snow represents the functional activities of man, and the conformation to adjust to the seasons, the labors of February and March through June and July are represented by panoramic landscapes that are dominated by the affairs of men; replaced in August and September by the golden hued Wheat Harvest panels- some of the most iconic and lyrical panels of the set, followed by the Return of the Herd- organized through various sequences of intersecting diagonal movements which evoke unparalleled actuality towards the larger scope and grandeur of the natural work and the coherency found in man's relationship toward a natural scheme veering away from established order and hierarchy, even in the medieval and Renaissance time periods.
View Pieter Brugel, the Elder Gallery