Pieter Bruegel the Elder: The Harvesters (1565)

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Pieter Bruegel the Elder – The Harvesters – 1565 On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 642

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 642

This panel belongs to a series, commissioned by the Antwerp merchant Niclaes Jongelinck for his suburban home. The cycle originally included six paintings showing the times of the year. Apart from The Harvesters, which is usually identified as representing July–August, or late summer, four other paintings of the group have survived (now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, and Lobkowicz Collection, Prague). Bruegel’s series is a watershed in the history of western art. The religious pretext for landscape painting has been suppressed in favor of a new humanism, and the unidealized description of the local scene is based on natural observations.
Quote from TheMet
Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Harvesters (1565) detail
Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Harvesters (1565) detail
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Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Harvesters (1565) detail
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Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Harvesters (1565) detail

 

Bruegel’s use of landscape also defies easy interpretation, and demonstrates perhaps the artist’s greatest innovation. Working in the aftermath of the Reformation, Bruegel was able to separate his landscapes from long-standing iconographic tradition, and achieve a contemporary and palpable vision of the natural world. For the Antwerp home of the wealthy merchant Niclaes Jongelinck, who owned no less than sixteen of the artist’s works, Bruegel executed a series of paintings representing the Seasons, of which five survive: Gloomy Day, Return of the Herd, Hunters in the Snow (all Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna), Haymaking (Národní Galerie, Prague), and The Harvesters (19.164). Though rooted in the legacy of calendar scenes, Bruegel’s emphasis is not on the labors that mark each season but on the atmosphere and transformation of the landscape itself. These panoramic compositions suggest an insightful and universal vision of the world—a vision that distinguishes all the work of their remarkable creator, Pieter Bruegel the Elder.

Quote from Jacob Wisse

Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/brue/hd_brue.htm

 

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Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Harvesters (1565) detail
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Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Harvesters (1565) detail
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Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Harvesters (1565) detail
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Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Harvesters (1565) detail

Who Was Pieter Bruegel the Elder?

1525 – Sep 9, 1569

Pieter Bruegel the Elder was the most significant artist of Dutch and Flemish Renaissance painting, a painter and printmaker from Brabant, known for his landscapes and peasant scenes; he was a pioneer in making both types of subject the focus in large paintings.
He was a formative influence on Dutch Golden Age painting and later painting in general in his innovative choices of subject matter, as one of the first generation of artists to grow up when religious subjects had ceased to be the natural subject matter of painting. He also painted no portraits, the other mainstay of Netherlandish art. After his training and travels to Italy, he returned in 1555 to settle in Antwerp, where he worked mainly as a prolific designer of prints for the leading publisher of the day. Only towards the end of the decade did he switch to make painting his main medium, and all his famous paintings come from the following period of little more than a decade before his early death, when he was probably in his early forties, and at the height of his powers.
 

 

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Sources:

  1. Wisse, Jacob. “Pieter Bruegel the Elder (ca. 1525–1569).” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/brue/hd_brue.htm (October 2002) Web. Ap. 29, 2018
  2. Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Harvesters, Web. Ap 29, 2018, https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/435809
  3. Google Arts and Culture, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Web. Ap. 29, 2018, https://artsandculture.google.com/entity/m0h6nl

3 Comments Add yours

  1. jonpip says:

    I seem to remember that he did a painting about the blind leading the blind, and it is possible to recognise the different kinds of eye disease afflicting each character. From an Art History class in 1979, but I think that is right. Similar story with his Children’s Games painting.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi jonpip – that is fascinating, and I would love to learn more. His paintings are like stepping into another world where many different stories are being told at once. Thanks for commenting. 🙂

    Like

  3. jonpip says:

    His paintings seem to be documents into the past because he loved observing people.

    Liked by 1 person

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