The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Bruegel

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BRUEGEL, or BREUGHEL, BREUGELS, etc., bre'Hėl, a family originating in Brabant and of which no less than 12 individuals — during a period of five generations — were artists. Only one of them is of first-rate importance, but he is sufficient to immortalize the name. This is the founder of the family, Pieter: b. Bruegel, near Breda, about 1528; d. Brussels 1569. He is often spoken of as the Old or Peasant Bruegel, by reason of his subjects, and is to be distinguished from his son, Pieter II, called Hell Bruegel. While the later members of the family may be considered as of the Flemish school, Pieter (I) is of the Dutch school. Pieter Bruegel, the elder, began his studies under a pupil of Hieronymus Bosch, who persuaded him to go to Antwerp and work under P. Coeck d'Alast, painter to Charles V. He did so, but his admiration for his robust compatriot, Bosch, kept him from accepting the Italian tendency of Coeck, and it is to Bosch that we must trace Bruegel's technique and his idea of art. In 1551 he entered the guild of Antwerp as a master painter. Shortly afterward he made a journey to Italy, by way of France, arriving in Rome in 1553. By 1554 he was back in Flanders, again but little influenced by the Italians. He lived at Antwerp till 1563, when he married the daughter of Pieter Coeck and took up his residence at Brussels, where he remained until his death. It is during his last six years that his genius reached its greatest development. He had already accomplished a powerful and original work in his earlier religious pictures and he continued with these subjects. But the realistic observation of Bruegel was more at liberty when, in his last period, he frankly took the life about him as his subject, for it had been that which interested him chiefly even when depicting sacred themes. All the vigorous humor and satire of Bosch appear again in a finer and more profound spirit. The whole outlook of Brouwer, Ostade and Teniers in the 17th century and Millet in the 19th is foreseen, and they never approached their predecessor. The sane and healthy outlook on mankind is supplemented by a magnificent conception of nature. One can think of no other painter who has given the sense of vastness in a landscape and at the same time kept the amazing realism of detail that Bruegel gives us. Best of all, he has a sense of design that carries his philosophic and emotional qualities immediately into the realm of art. He is, in fact, one of the world's great designers, and the admiration he inspires is increased when we reflect that he is the originator of his style instead of inheriting it from others. As painting, whether in tempera (as the ‘Blind Men’ at Naples) or in oil (e.g., ‘Winter’ at Tournai) his works are masterpieces. Among other important pictures to be mentioned are the ‘Massacre of the Innocents,’ at Brussels; ‘The Brigands,’ at the University of Stockholm; ‘The Wedding Dinner’ at the Vienna Museum, and ‘The Wolf,’ in the collection of Mr. John G. Johnson of Philadelphia. His spirited and important engravings have been edited by Van Bastelaer. His eldest son, Pieter The Younger, b. Brussels 1564; d. there 1637, studied with Gillis van Conincxloo at Antwerp. Like his father, he painted rural and genre subjects, but he is generally known as “Höllen-Bruegel,” because of his fondness for representing the infernal regions and subjects like witches, devils and robbers. Jan Bruegel, The Elder: b. Brussels 1568; d. there 1625. The younger son of Pieter the Elder is usually called “Velvet-Bruegel” from the softness and smoothness of his technique. He studied with Goetkind in Antwerp and spent several years in Italy. He returned to Antwerp about 1597 and soon acquired wealth and high honors. He was dean of the painters' guild (1601-02) and, like his intimate friend, Rubens, was official painter to the regents of the Netherlands. His landscapes are important in the development of landscape painting. They usually contain many small figures and are numerous in all the principal European collections. The most important are probably the 54 examples in the gallery of Madrid. His son and pupil, Jan Bruegel, The Younger: b. Brussels 1601; d. 1678. It is difficult to distinguish his work from his father's. For the Bruegel family consult Rooses, ‘Geschiedenis der Antwerpsche bilderschule’ (Antwerp 1887-90), and Michel, ‘Les Brueghel’ (Paris 1892).