Pieter Bruegel Artist Biography
Generally known as Pieter Bruegel the Elder, he was the first in a great line of Flemish artists. Bruegel was well-known during his lifetime but it wasn’t until the 20th century when his talent was truly recognised and forged his own distinctive style within the tradition of religious painting. The spirituality in his work is evident as he conveys a deep sense of understanding with his fellow man. Born in or near Breda sometime between 1525 and 1530, Pieter Bruegel settled fairly early in Antwerp, where he became a master in the painters’ Guild of Saint Luke between 1551 and 1552. He studied under the leading artist Pieter Cooke van Aelst. Around this time, he travelled to Italy where he completed a number of paintings, mostly landscapes. Peter Bruegel returned home in 1553 and settled in Antwerp. Over the next few years, he designed a series of landscapes engraved and published by Hieronymous Cock. Bruegel produced a number of drawings for Cock including parables such as 'The Big Fish Eat Little Fish' (1557).
In 1563, he moved to Brussels and married van Aelst's daughter Mayken. Pieter Breugel's association with the van Aelst family drew him to the artistic traditions of the Mechelen (now Malines) region, in which allegorical and peasant themes are widespread. Bruegel's paintings of this period depicted landscapes and scenes of peasant life, such as the famous painting 'Peasant Wedding Feast' (1567). Peter Bruegel chose so regularly the subject of peasant life that he is sometimes referred to as 'Peasant Bruegel'. Towards the end of his life, his figures became bigger and bolder such as in 'The Blind Leading the Blind' (1568). Peter Bruegel died in 1569 and was buried in Notre-Dame de la Chapelle in Brussels.
Throughout his life, Peter Bruegel used everyday sayings and proverbs to draw personal and highly sophisticated moral commentaries on the condition of man. 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. "Historically speaking, Bruegel is one of the greats; and to place him by the side of Jan van Eyck and of Rembrandt is to emphasize the essentials of Netherlandish painting." Max J. Friedlnder, art historian.