Artists Illustrating Boys' Fashions: Pieter Bruegel the Elder (Flanders, c1525-1569)

Figure 1.--Pieter Bruegel the Elder's painting 'Children's games' (1560) is a wonderful composit of all the different types of children play among peasant children at the time. He depicted a wide range of play activities for children and youth at the time. Some are obvious and others we are not so sure about. This is one of several peasant genre scenes. And it is not an idealized depiction. He even shows one boy going to the bathroom.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder was born in Brenda (modern Netherlands) or Bree (modern Belgium) (about 1525). He was Netherlandish/Flemish Renaissance painter and printmaker known for both landscapes and genre work. He showed a special interest in peasant scenes which is why he is known as 'Peasant Bruegel' as thre are several different members of the Brueghel artistic dynasty. There are different spellings of his name. He dropped the 'h' from his name and started signing his paintings as Bruegel (1559). As a boy he was apprenticed to Pieter Coecke van Aelst, whose daughter Mayken he later married. He traveled in France and Italy, and then spent some time in Antwerp. It was here he was accepted as a master in the painter's guild (1551). He then traveled to Italy again before returning to Antwerp whre he worked for 10 years. He finally settled in Brussels. Art historians see him as the greatest of the Bruegel clan. His life is almost coincident with the Reformation ans the influence of the Reformation is powerful. This can be seen in the humanizing spirit to traditional subjects and bold innovation, especially the value he gave to individuals, especially those of the lower order. No one embraced the peasantry like Bruegel. He is of special interest to HBC because of his wonderful painting of peasant children playing (figure 1). It is not an actual scene, but a canvas for depicting the varied play activies of peasants in the 16th century.


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Created: 11:36 PM 8/1/2005
Last updated: 7:57 PM 8/2/2005