Retrospective of Flemish Artist Bruegel the Elder

Retrospective of Flemish Artist Bruegel the Elder
To commemorate the 450th anniversary of Bruegel the Elder's death, an Austrian museum exhibits 'peasant', seascape and religious works. I'll discuss their holdings and what was and wasn’t loaned.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder was a prolific Netherlandish artist of the 16th c despite only being active as an artist for 18 (eighteen) years - passing away in his forties.

His intricate "Tower of Babel" (1563) is owned by the Kunsthistorisches and is shown alongside the version from the Boijmans van Beuningen Museum in Rotterdam - for the first time.

Bruegel, AKA "Peasant Brueghel" may be best known for his genre painting of peasants in everyday life - working and at play. These village settings help us understand the life of peasants.
He also painted landscape, seascape, and religious paintings - mostly in oil on wood.

Bruegel was commissioned by a wealthy Antwerp patron in 1565 to paint a series for each month of the year. As only five (5) of these paintings remain, it is unclear to art historians if there were originally six (6) pairs of months or twelve (12). These paintings were large - 3' X 5'.

Of the remaining five, the Kunsthistorisches owns three (3) which include: "Gloomy Day" for Spring, "Return of the Herd" for Autumn, and "The Hunters in the Snow" for December and January. "The Haymaking" (1565) for early Summer from the Lobkowicz Collections in Prague is on loan.

The Metropolitan Museum's "The Harvesters" (1565) for late Summer - my personal favorite - was not loaned for this exhibit as they feared the possible damage by temperature change that may occur to this fragile work of oil on wood.

Bruegel's "The Hunters in the Snow" (1565) and "The Peasant Wedding" (1566-1569) are perhaps two (2) of his most recognized paintings - largely due to his elder son, Bruegel the Younger and his workshop as copyists of his father's most famous paintings. Pieter Bruegel the Elder died when the Younger was only five years old.

Bruegel the elder's landscape painting, "Landscape with Flight into Egypt" (1563), his seascape "View of Bay of Naples" (1562), and his famous "Blind Leading the Blind" (1568) are superb examples of his oeuvre.

Bruegel's "Adoration of the Magi" (1564) from the National Gallery, London and "Winter Landscape with a Bird Trap" (1565), "The Triumph of Death" (after 1592) from the Prado, Madrid, "View of the Bay of Naples" (1562) from the Galleria Doria Pamphilj in Rome, and "Dulle Griet" (1563) from the Museum Mayer van den Bergh in Antwerp were successfully loaned for the Kunsthistorisches exhibit.

The enticement to secure these loans for the exhibit were the massive restoration, research, and conservation efforts by the Kunsthistorisches which has been in effect for six (6) years. High resolution images, infrared, and X-ray scans can be seen on the website

The Kunsthistorisches' Bruegel the Elder solo exhibition runs through January 13, 2019.

This show lures me as did the Vermeer exhibit at the National Gallery, Washington DC in 1997 which I did attend - but regretfully, it may be time and cost prohibitive for me at this time. I hope you can attend!

You can pre-order the book accompanying the exhibit "Bruegel" at the Kunsthistorisches, Vienna, Austria available here from

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