Pieter Bruegel paintings captured the beauty of the Netherlandish countryside whilst also picturing the lives of the ordinary man, at a time when most artists concentrated solely on the rich and famous
The artist starred in the 16th century, at a time when landscape painting was not as common as it is today. Religious themes plus commissioned portraits were the standard fodder for artists during this time, meaning the likes of Bruegel would have to be particularly skilled in order to attract attention to their less respected genres. The sprawling landscapes composed by Bruegel would be full of life and activity, in every corner of the canvas. The artist appeared to be highly curious of the daily lives of the poor, as well as their methods for celebrating special events. Some of his other paintings would be indoor settings, capturing a smaller number of people in more detail depictions.
The artist's style was unquestionably unique, making it tricky to find accurate comparisons with other artists around that time. Hieronymus Bosch is perhaps the closest in terms of artistic style and also the impact made by his work. This Netherlandish artist also created large landscape scenes with multiple figures laid out right across the composition. Whilst Pieter's son, the younger, also produced paintings in a similar style, he cannot be considered anything like the artistic equal of his father or Bosch. The work of Bruegel the Elder was particularly influential on members of the Dutch Golden Age and this highly significant art movement would then inspire many few artists right across the world.
At this time in European Art History the Netherlandish/Dutch and Italian regions were the two most important areas, both providing innovation and technical advances that the other could take advantage of. This fruitful interaction would then spread to other European countries such as Diego Velazquez in Spain and Albrecht Durer in Germany. Bruegel learnt much from his studies in Italy but his work also had a clear level of his own imagination and flair within it. Bruegel was initially a skilled printmaker and draughtsman before making painting his preferred choice, around a decade into his professional career. Sadly, he would only survive a further decade due to the low life expectancies during this period and all of his famous paintings, found in this page, were therefore produced over a very small period of time.
One can only imagine what might have been had he lived to the same age as a Michelangelo or a Da Vinci but let us just appreciate all the beautiful art that he was able to produce in his shortened life. Whilst producing religiously themed paintings on several occassions, Peasant Bruegel, as he became known, was mainly focused on the life of the poor within his local community. Early on he would produce perhaps what he remains best known for today - sprawling landscape scenes with dozens of small figures living normal lives. The later style that he developed were for closer positions to the action where more detail of each figure could be seen and understood.
Bruegel Paintings are amongst the finest art to have come from the Dutch region during the 16th century and they were created by several artists from the Bruegel family whose most famous painters were Pieter the Elder and Pieter the Younger, both of whom are covered in great detail within this website. There was also Jan the Elder and Younger too, and some of their paintings are also included here. You will find below a selection of images of the best paintings to have come from these artists as well as discussion of both of their careers and lives. You can also enjoy the finest art from Pieter Bruegel the Elder in the large gallery of famous paintings below, click through to read more about the history of each painting. A list of Bruegel drawings can also be found here.
The Bruegel family also included Jan the Younger and Elder although their success as artists was less significant. Of Pieter the Younger and Elder, the latter certainly achieved the most academic acceptance and his career continues to be the stronger in the modern day. The Bruegels are still very much remembered and have a place within the impressive development of Dutch art over the past 500 years. The Dutch Golden Age helped to give this country significant exposure across Europe and it's artists continue to receive exposure today. Bruegel paintings are amongst the best examples of traditional Dutch art. Both Pieters enjoyed reflecting on the lives of ordinary people and would often create huge landscapes that were filled from tip to toe with peasants going about their daily lives in all sorts of interesting ways that made their large scale works impressively detailed.
It was relatively unusual for painters to concentrate on the poorer elements of society during this time as most preferred the glamour of the rich and famous, whose commissions also helped them to pay their bills and open up new opportunities. All of the paintings included within this website cover the best known of all from the careers of these two talented Dutchmen, with many more worth checking out for those who can spare the time. There is a fuller list further down the page which concentrates on expanding on the portfolio of work from these two related painters. All Bruegel images included within this website are also accompanied by links to Art.com, where you can buy your own print reproductions of the originals to add to your own home. We use them ourselves, so are happy to recommend their excellent service.
Hunters in the Snow is amongst the best known Bruegel painting. Pieter Bruegel the Elder and his lesser known son, the Younger, are just a small part of the impressive list of Netherlands-based painters to have contributed to the development of European art since the Middle Ages, with most others being part of the Dutch Golden Age. This art movement helped to push North European artists to the forefront at that time, having previously followed far behind the Italian Renaissance schools of artists. Since the rise of Dutch art, we have seen further developments in France, UK and Spain to complete a varied period in this continent since the arrival of the early Renaissance. Pieter Bruegel the Elder's paintings were well known for being impressively large pieces which featured both dramatic landscape scenes and also imaginative portrayals of local life within them.
Each character would be involved in a different activity to the next, and this would make each of his paintings very intriguing, with considerable amounts of detail to cover for the viewer. It is easy to see why this artist, and his son who followed a similar style, were so popular at the time and since. Tower of Babel Bruegel paintings also show off the family's exceptional talents. It is believed by many that Pieter the Younger flew on the success of his father and lacked the same innovation or technical ability. He quickly discovered that much money was to be made from simply copying over his father's work and passing it off as his own which helped him to build up a large amount of finance which appeared to be more important to him than achieving the same academic acceptance of his father. Most concentrate more on his father's work and this controversy has never helped his career to match up.
The area around the Netherlands and Germany, as we know them now, were particularly impressive in art during the first few centuries after the Italian renaissance had come to an end. Several Dutch schools established themselves as excellent locations for young local aspiring artists who were later to achieve international success in many cases. Around this time, Germany contributed the likes of Albrecht Durer to the work of artists like the Bruegels. Bosch came from around this region too. Fall of Icarus is another well known work from the Bruegel family and features a stylish background landscape with the key topic of the work addressed in the foreground.
During the period in which the Bruegels achieved fame most artists used religious depictions as a quick way to achieve success with plenty of Christian institutions lining up to use the services of the most skilled painters. The Bruegels however, and in particular Pieter the Elder, were interested only in the lives of ordinary people and would concentrate on those right across their careers. Sadly for art historians there is less information available on the Bruegels than other more recent artists, and there are still plenty of question marks around the lives of the well known Pieters and Jans in this family. Coming before the Dutch Golden Age, most place them into an approximate umbrella movement of the Dutch and Flemish Renaissance which reflects the complicated changes of boundaries that occurred to countries of the lowlands around that time and ever since.
Tom Gurney in an art history expert. He received a BSc (Hons) degree from Salford University, UK, and has also studied famous artists and art movements for over 20 years. Tom has also published a number of books related to art history and continues to contribute to a number of different art websites. You can read more on Tom Gurney here.