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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Bruegel, Pieter the Elder


The Harvesters
1565
oil on wood
116.5 x 159.5 cm (45 7/8 x 62 7/8 in. )
The Metropolitan Museum, New York, USA

This is one of six panels painted by Pieter Bruegel the Elder for the suburban Antwerp home of the wealthy merchant, one of the artist's most enthusiastic patrons. Through his remarkable sensitivity to nature's workings, Bruegel created a watershed in the history of Western art, suppressing the religious and iconographic associations of earlier depictions of the seasons in favor of an unidealized vision of landscape.
The Harvesters probably represented the months of August and September in the context of the series. It shows a ripe field of wheat that has been partially cut and stacked, while in the foreground a number of peasants pause to picnic in the relative shade of a pear tree. Work continues around them as a couple gathers wheat into bundles, three men cut stalks with scythes, and several women make their way through the corridor of a wheat field with stacks of grain over their shoulders. The vastness of the panorama across the rest of the composition reveals that Bruegel's emphasis is not on the labors that mark the time of the year, but on the atmosphere and transformation of the landscape itself.

Pieter Bruegel (Brueghel) the Elder (c.1525 - 1569) was a Flemish renaissance painter, generally considered the greatest Flemish painter of the 16th century. He received the nickname 'Peasant Bruegel' or 'Bruegel the Peasant' for his alleged practice of dressing up like a peasant in order to mingle at weddings and other celebrations, thereby gaining inspiration and authentic details for his genre paintings.

Making the life and manners of peasants the main focus of a work was rare in painting in Bruegel's time, and he was a pioneer of the Netherlandish genre painting. He developed an original style that uniformly holds narrative, or story-telling, meaning. In subject matter he ranged widely, from conventional Biblical scenes and parables of Christ to such mythological portrayals as Landscape with the Fall of Icarus; religious allegories in the style of Hieronymus Bosch; and social satires. But it was in nature that he found his greatest inspiration. His paintings, including his landscapes and scenes of peasant life, stress the absurd and vulgar, yet are full of zest and fine detail. They also expose human weaknesses and follies. Using abundant spirit and comic power, he created some of the early images of acute social protest in art history. On his deathbed he reportedly ordered his wife to burn the most subversive of his drawings to protect his family from political persecution.

He was the father of Pieter Brueghel the Younger and Jan Brueghel the Elder. Both became painters, but as they were very young children when their father died, it is believed neither received any training from him. Bruegel died in Brussels between Sept. 5 and 9, 1569. Popular in his own day, his works have remained consistently popular.
http://www.imaginarymuseum.net/view/flipcard