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Pieter Bruegel the Elder: Drawings and Prints

Pieter Bruegel the Elder: Drawings and Prints

Orenstein, Nadine M., ed., with contributions by Nadine M. Orenstein, Manfred Sellink, Jürgen Müller, Michiel C. Plomp, Martin Royalton-Kisch, and Larry Silver
2001
336 pages
274 illustrations
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One of the greatest Netherlandish artists, Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1525/30–1569) is best known today for his paintings of peasant life. Yet is was above all through his exceptional graphic work that he achieved widespread fame during the sixteenth century. His drawings and prints made after his designs, while based on traditional sources, are innovative and independent, and they are wide ranging in their subject matter.

Among Bruegel's foremost achievements in the graphic realm is the naturalistic rendering of landscapes. In many instances inspired by the Alpine mountains and valleys the artists encountered during a journey in Italy he made as a young man, these views synthesize the imagery of Bruegel's Italian and Netherlandish predecessors at the same time they represent a new and highly influential departure: an independent landscape genre entirely focused on nature. Indeed, a sixteenth-century authors famously wrote of Bruegel, "he teaches us to represent ... the angular, rocky Alps, the dizzying views down into a deep valley, steep cliffs, pine trees that kiss the clouds, far distances, and rushing streams." The master also created a body of peerless figurative designs featuring demons, virtuous souls, fools, and faceless peasants tilling the land. In allegories, portrayals of proverbs, and biblical narratives he dissected the imperfections of human nature, giving free rein to his imagination and wicked sense of humor. Often Bruegel produced what one early observer called "fantasies and bizarre things, dreams, and imaginations" that were closely based on the work of Hieronymus Bosch and inspired his contemporaries to call him the second Bosch.

Bruegel's graphic work has recently been the subject of scholarship that has reevaluated the parameters of his oeuvre, assigning to other artists drawings formerly believed to be by his hand and adding some new sheets to the canon. The new Bruegel who has emerged from these studies is the subject of this volume, which accompanies an exhibition held at the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York—surprisingly the first major show devoted solely to the master's drawings and prints. In essays of interest to the general audience and scholars alike, an international group of experts discusses the artist's life; his contributions as a draftsman and as a designer of prints; his social and intellectual context; and the posthumous survival of his art. Entries on the more than 140 works included in the exhibition further illuminate the master's genius and reveal meanings hidden in the imagery. Every print and drawing in the exhibition is reproduced and numerous comparative illustrations are offered. Provenances and references for all works, a bibliography, and an index are supplied.

Met Art in Publication

The Harvesters, Pieter Bruegel the Elder  Netherlandish, Oil on wood
1565
1779–1803
Man Protected by the Shield of Faith, Maarten van Heemskerck  Netherlandish, Pen and brown ink, over traces of black chalk; indented for transfer; framing lines in pen and brown ink
1559
The Penitent Magdalene (Magdalena Poenitens) from The Large Landscapes, Johannes van Doetecum I  Netherlandish, Etching
Multiple artists/makers
ca. 1555–56
Rustic Market (Nundinae Rusticorum) from The Large Landscapes, Pieter Bruegel the Elder  Netherlandish, Etching with engraving; second state of three
Multiple artists/makers
ca. 1555–56
Big Fish Eat Little Fish, Pieter van der Heyden  Netherlandish, Engraving; first state of four
Multiple artists/makers
1557
Avarice (Avaritia) from the series The Seven Deadly Sins, Pieter van der Heyden  Netherlandish, Engraving; first state of two
Multiple artists/makers
1558
Pride (Superbia), from the series The Seven Deadly Sins, Pieter van der Heyden  Netherlandish, Engraving
Multiple artists/makers
1558
Envy (Invidia) from The Seven Deadly Sins, Pieter Bruegel the Elder  Netherlandish, Engraving; first state of two
Multiple artists/makers
1558
Sloth (Desidia), from the series The Seven Deadly Sins, Pieter van der Heyden  Netherlandish, Engraving
Multiple artists/makers
1558
Skating before the St. George's Gate, Antwerp, Pieter Bruegel the Elder  Netherlandish, Engraving; first state of two
Multiple artists/makers
ca. 1558
Peasant Fair, Peeter van der Borcht  Netherlandish, Etching and engraving
1559
Armed Three-master with Daedalus and Icarus in the Sky from The Sailing Vessels, Pieter Bruegel the Elder  Netherlandish, Engraving; first state of three
Multiple artists/makers
1561–65
Three Caravels in a Rising Squall with Arion on a Dolphin from "The Sailing Vessels", Pieter Bruegel the Elder  Netherlandish, Engraving and etching; first state of six
Multiple artists/makers
1561–65
Armed Three-Master Anchored Near a City from The Sailing Vessels, Frans Huys  Netherlandish, Engraving; first state of two
Multiple artists/makers
ca. 1555–56
Four-master and Two Three-masters Anchored near a Fortified Island, from "The Sailing Vessels", Pieter Bruegel the Elder  Netherlandish, Engraving and etching; first state of three
Multiple artists/makers
1561–65
Fleet of Galleys Escorted by a Caravel from The Sailing Vessels, Pieter Bruegel the Elder  Netherlandish, Engraving and etching
Multiple artists/makers
1561–65
late 16th century
The Fall of the Magician, Pieter van der Heyden  Netherlandish, Engraving; first state of five
Multiple artists/makers
1565
Spring (Ver) from The Seasons, Pieter van der Heyden  Netherlandish, Engraving; first state of three
Multiple artists/makers
1570
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Bruegel, Pieter, and Nadine Orenstein. 2001. Pieter Bruegel the Elder: Drawings and Prints. New York : New Haven: Metropolitan Museum of Art ; Yale University Press.