Friday, September 24, 2010

Oh Boy! A 'new' Bruegel

The news out of Madrid today is that there is officially a 'new' painting by Pieter Bruegel the elder ('the elder' is important because his sons, also painters, were far lesser talents.) Bruegel (aka The Elder) is one of my favorite painters, so this is exciting. And from what I've seen from news reports, this is a classic - full of wit and spirit, with a great seething crowd of people engaged in vigorous activity that smacks of all-too-human frailty, in this case drunkeness on the event of a festival celebrating St. Martin. (he's the wealthy man turned saint who shared his cloak with a beggar, in case you're wondering.) One of the reports I read called Bruegel a painter of 'peaceful winter scenes' but they're confusing him with other Flemish painters - Bruegel in his time was nicknamed 'Peasant Bruegel' because he painted peasants, a subject of no worth to the establishment at the time, but he is in fact a sly and at times subversive painter of great sophistication. Working as he did in the 1500's in the Netherlands, he felt the full impact of the bloody century that resulted from Martin Luther's actions against "The Church" - the Reformation. His compelling painting, The Triumph of Death, while believable as an allegory of religious belief, is considered a fairly accurate picture of the devastation left in the wake of Spanish Catholic actions against the rebels in Northern Europe, actions that led to the independence of the brave little country we now know as Holland. Other Bruegel pictures show, yes peasants, but show them as representatives of human actions, unfettered by the restraints of more highly civilized society - for example his work, Netherlandish Proverbs, is a glossary of many familiar sayings (Don't Count your Chickens before they Hatch, Don't cry over Spilt Milk, etc) acted out by a cast of characters with charm and colorful squalor. There are only about 40 known Bruegels - this affirmation of a 'new' one is big news indeed.

1 comment:

JoAnne Russo said...

i hadn't heard about this! very cool!!