The History of Art And The Curious Lives of Famous Painters


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Pieter Brueghel the Elder

One of the Greatest Painters Of All Time

Nickname "Peasant Bruegel"

The Finest Flemish, Painter of the Northern Renaissance

Stylistically influenced by the following painters;  Pieter Coecke van Aelst,  Hieronymous Bosch and Joachim Patinir

Cause of Death - Typhus

technique - oil or tempera on linen or oak panel


Two of Pieter Brueghl's greatest masterpieces (click to enlarge)

Pieter Brueghel the Elder came from a long line of fine craftsmen and artists. The artist was acclaimed for his genre paintings, peasant scenes and landscapes. He was a very important Flemish Renaissance painter and printmaker that influenced painters for generations to come. He married his teachers beautiful daughter, Mayken van Aelst when he was 21. The combined talent of their genes continued the artistic dynasty for hundreds of years. There is a deliberate serenity to his paintings, by presenting the viewer with cool colors, his work captivates. In composition he is at his best with landscapes. In groups the separate figures are always in harmonious unity. Brueghel was one of  most creative individuals to have dominated the world of art. His unrivaled talent and brilliancy, is as fresh today as it was 500 years ago. 

Brueghel spent his formative years travelling and later in Antwerp. Author James Edward Parrott descibes the city, "Antwerp, with its deep and convenient river, stretched its arm to the ocean, and caught the golden prize as it fell from its sister cities' grasp. No city except Paris surpassed it in population; none approached it in commercial splendour." 

James Edward Parrott further states "The city began to decline during the reign of Philip II., who was King of Spain and master of the Netherlands. In 1576 Spanish soldiers whose pay was in arrears broke into mutiny, and stormed and sacked several of the richest towns of Flanders, including Antwerp. Early in November of that year they entered the city, burnt more than a thousand houses, slew more than eight thousand citizens, plundered right and left, and behaved with the utmost cruelty. Such was the "Spanish Fury," which still forms a landmark in Flemish history. With the help of William of Orange, the Spaniards were driven out of Antwerp."

A List of Pieter Brueghel' s Most Important Paintings (listed in order of significance and importance) 

Babel Tower c. 1563,

The Triumph of Death, c. 1562

Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, circa 1555

Hunters in the Snow (1565) Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna 

The Fall of the Rebel Angels, c. 1562 Oil on oak,


Key Words, People, Phrases, Characteristics related to the Northern Renaissance Art Movement -  allegorical painting,  rebirth, invention of oil painting,   Hieronymus Bosch, Limbourg Brothers, Desiderius Erasmus,  Robert Campin, Jan Van Eyck, Jean Fouquet, Albrecht Dürer, Johannes Gutenberg, Johann Reuchlin, Martin Luther, rise of the merchant class, world landscape,  Low Countries, Protestant Reformation, Calvinisim, glazing, impasto, scriptorium, illuminator, invention of the printing press, woodcuts, engravings, Antwerp School, Guild of Saint Luke, commerce, Flemish School, Northern Europe, Flanders, Bruges, renewed interest in classical learning,  mythological scenes, genre painting, landscapes, portraits, moralizing overtones, human vices, lust, paradise, spirituality, piousness, living a simple life, reformHuman Reasoning,  tradesmen at work, idyllic scenes of peasantsplaying games, feasting,  linear perspective, \Heliocentric Theory, humour, satire,  spiritually significant, illuminated manuscriptidealized biblical themes, scriptorium, emotion, illuminator,  iconoclast, Age of Discovery, Virgin and Child, axonometric drawing, curiosity about the natural world,  realistic use of colours and lightOld Testament stories, Gospel parables, The Blackdeath,  Christian symbolism


Important Northern Renaissance  Artists

Hieronymus Bosch (1453 - 1516) Dutch
Dieric Bouts the Elder (1413-1475) Dutch
Pieter Brueghel the Elder (1525 - 1569) Flemish
Pieter Brueghel the Younger (1564 - 1638) Flemish
Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472 - 1553) German
Albrecht Dürer (1471 - 1528)  German
Matthias Grünewald (1434-1494) Flemish
Hans Holbein the Younger (1497-1543) German
Quentin Massys (1466–1530  Flemish
Rogier van der Weyden (1399-1464) Dutch
Jan van Eyck (1385 - 1441) Flemish
Robert Campin  1375-1444 Dutch
Hans Melming 1434-1494  
Petrus Christus (1420–1476) Netherlandish 
Simon Marmion  (1425-1489)  French Early Netherlandish 
Jan Provoost  (1465–1529)
Flemish School, Netherlandish 
Hugo Van Der Goes (1430-1482)
Joos van Cleve (1485 – 1540) 
Joachim Patinir (1480 –1524) Flemish School
Hubert van Eyck
Michael Wolgemut (1434–1519)
Michael Pacher (1435– 1498)
Colijn de Coter (1445–1532)
Pieter Pourbus (1523-1584)
Flemish School
Gerard Horenbout  (1465 - 1541)
Flemish School,
Jean Malouel (1365-1415) French Early Netherlandish
Gerard David  (1469-1519) Early Netherlandish

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100 greatest paintings