Pieter Brueghel d. Ä.

Born in the small village of Brueghel near Breda around 1528-30, Pieter (I.) Brueghel is considered the most significant painter of the advanced 16th century. He was called "Peasant Brueghel" by his first biographer Karel van Mander because the genre of peasant painting is his creation. Only a few documents but even more works by the artist bear witness to his life and work in Antwerp and Brussels. Conclusions about his year of birth can be drawn from his admission to the Guild of St Luke in 1551. The following year, he travelled to Italy and probably returned to Antwerp in 1554. At first, he worked as a draughtsman in the publishing house of Hieronymus Cock and finally found his way to painting in 1558.

Pieter Brueghel the Elder married Meycken Coecke, and they had two sons, Jan the Elder and Pieter the Younger, both of whom would also achieve fame as painters. In 1563, he moved to Brussels to create his large paintings.

The iconography of the many-figure peasant pictures is based on the works of Hieronymus Bosch. In his works, Brueghel adopted the simplifications of form that succinctly emphasise the moralising aspect, which he implemented by using parables.

Another of the artist's central themes is the landscapes, which have taken on a life of their own since his trip to Italy. They no longer show detailed but rather holistic views of nature. The climax of this genre within his oeuvre are the monthly and seasonal paintings. They serve as allegories of birth and decay.

The ingenious figure motifs were absolutely unique of their time because Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Brueghel the Elder broke radically new ground with their paintings. Both painters held up a mirror to the world with almost cerebral irony and magical symbolism, sparing no one during the process. Thus, the painters' vicious ridicule was aimed at the hypocrisy of the clergy, the immoderateness of the nobility and the immoral life of the people. Through his cheerful exaggeration, "Pieter de grappige" (Pieter the Funny), as Pieter Brueghel the Elder was also called, had a lasting effect on the sense of humour of his contemporaries.

Brueghel was a versatile artist, and in his works, one can find both the moralistic aspect and a depiction of rural life in the mid-16th century. Royal houses and wealthy noble families once collected his paintings, which thus began a triumphal procession throughout Europe. Thus, his oeuvre became exemplary for the entire Dutch art of the following century.

Brueghel died as a respected painter on September 5, 1569, in Brussels.

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