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    BRUEGHEL, Pieter  

PIETER BRUEGHEL, The Elder (Painter) (1564-1637)

Bruegel's earliest works were landscapes, an interest he retained throughout his life. A number of panoramic landscape drawings made on his Italian trip - for example, those preserved in Berlin (1552, Staatliche Museen) and in London (1553, British Museum) - show Bruegel's ability, even in his early career, to depict the changing seasonal moods and the atmospheric qualities of nature.

These same characteristics appear in his later landscape paintings, such as Hunters in the Snow (1565, Art History Museum, Vienna) and Magpie on the Gallows (1568, Hessiches Landesmuseum, Darmstadt, Germany).

After his return to Antwerp from Italy in 1555, Bruegel regularly made drawings for engravings published by the printing house owned by the graphic artist Hieronymus Cock.

Some of Bruegel's drawings for Cock were landscapes, but others were clearly meant to capitalize on the popularity of the bizarre art of Bruegel's famous Flemish predecessor Hieronymus Bosch. The fantastic, monstrous figures and demonic dwarfs in Bruegel's series of engravings The Seven Deadly Vices (1557) are within this category.

Late in the 1550s, Bruegel began a series of large painted panels with complex compositions depicting various aspects of Flemish folk life. The earliest of these is an encyclopedic portrayal of common sayings, Netherlandish Proverbs (1559, Staatliche Museen), followed by Combat Between Carnival and Lent (1559) and Children's Games (1560, both Kunsthistorisches Museum). All are marked by a perceptive observation of human nature, a pervasive wit, and the vitality of Bruegel's peasant figures.

Later examples of peasant folk subjects include Peasant Kermis and Peasant Wedding Feast (both 1566-1568?, Kunsthistorisches Museum).
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