Pieter Bruegel The Elder
Guy Lochhead, 07/03/11
Flemish painter known for his landscapes and depictions of 16th Century peasant life. He is known as “The Peasant Bruegel” after his habit of disguising himself as a poor person in order to mingle and get material to add authenticity to his paintings. The subsequent genre works are some of the only surviving “authentic” depictions of the lives of the majority of Flemish people at that time. He was also one of the first painters of satire, creating subversive humorous works that criticised contemporary society. Unfortunately he ordered the most subversive of these to be burned after he died in order to save his family from political persecution. He had two sons, Jan and Pieter, who also became painters. Bruegel The Elder’s paintings aren’t just of historical value. Many are densely-populated landscapes almost comparable to ‘Where’s Wally?’ books. I think they serve as brilliant introductions to “fine art”; much more visually-engaging than, say, ‘Mona Lisa’. You can basically play I Spy. His religious paintings are super gnarly too, with that old-style OTT fearful, fantastical religious belief that presents faith as too gnarly to be real nowadays. This is not nearly as objectionable to me as the modern sneaky stuff, and can, I think, instead be read as oversimplified moral quandaries. The satirical side of his work is exciting too, though it unfortunately loses a lot by being old. All of his work is imbued with a fantastic imagination comparable with one of his influences, and another favourite artist of mine, Hieronymous Bosch, though he also often includes social-realist elements too. Great stuff. I will include a book collection of his work, heavy on the pictures.

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