where was pieter bruegel born
As there are several other members of the Bruegel family who are well-known artists, Pieter Bruegel the Elder is often called the Peasant Bruegel, a reference to the subject matter of many of his works. Some sources believe the artist became known as the Peasant Bruegel because he used to attend social peasant gatherings dressed like a peasant himself. His family name was normally spelt “Brueghel,” but in 1559 Pieter dropped the letter “h” when signing his works.
Bruegel began to learn his craft while working as an apprentice to Pieter van Aelst, who was an official painter to the court of the then Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V. Bruegel would eventually marry van Aelst’s daughter Mayken. He would later continue his studies in both France and Italy. He lived for a time in Antwerp from 1555, where he was admitted as a master painter to the city’s Painters Guild. He later moved to Brussels in 1563, and remained there until his death in 1569 at the age of 44.
In 1551, less than a year after his master’s death, Bruegel was officially registered as a master in St. Luke’s guild. Though he may still have been tied to Coecke’s workshop, there is evidence that he was already collaborating with other artists at this time. Hs is listed in 1551 as employed in the workshop of Claude Dorizi, an artist and art dealer based in Mechelen. Here he collaborated on an altarpiece for the Glovemaker’s guild with Pieter Baltens, to whom Bruegel probably took a subordinate role. Though the work is lost today, descriptions state that Baltens worked on the central panel of the altarpiece, while Bruegel painted the local saints Rombout and Gomarius on the wings in grisaille.
There, in this thriving port city, Bruegel began to work for Hieronymous Cock with whom Bruegel would have a collaborative partnership until his death in 1569. Cock, an engraver himself, was the owner of a successful publishing house known as At the Sign of the Four Winds; there, he orchestrated artistic partnerships between engravers and print designers. Pieter Bruegel was one from the latter group. His first design for Cock was likely a landscape depicting a forest with bears which was later transformed by Cock into an engraving of the Temptation of Christ. During the beginning phases of his publishing venture, Cock dedicated many of his prints to Antoine Perrenot, Cardinal Granvelle, in order to acquire favor among the ruling elite. Perrenot in following years would become one of Bruegel’s most prominent patrons and the owner of the Flight into Egypt (1563).
In Brussels, Bruegel produced his greatest paintings but only few designs for engravings, for the connection with Hiëronymus Cock may have become less close after Bruegel left Antwerp. Another reason for the concentration on painting may have been his growing success in this field. Among his patrons was Antione Perrenot Cardinal de Granvelle, president of the council of state in the Netherlands, in whose palace in Brussels the sculptor Jacques Jonghelinck had a studio. He and Bruegel had traveled in Italy at the same time, and his brother, a rich Antwerp collector, Niclaes, was Bruegel’s greatest patron, having by 1566 acquired 16 of his paintings. Another patron was Abraham Ortelius, who in a memorable obituary called Bruegel the most perfect artist of the century. Most of his paintings were done for collectors.
There is but little information about his life. According to Carel van Mander’s Het Schilderboeck (Book of Painters), published in Amsterdam in 1604 (35 years after Bruegel’s death), Bruegel was apprenticed to Pieter Coecke van Aelst, a leading Antwerp artist who had located in Brussels. The head of a large workshop, Coecke was a sculptor, architect, and designer of tapestry and stained glass who had traveled in Italy and in Turkey. Although Bruegel’s earliest surviving works show no stylistic dependence on Coecke’s Italianate art, connections with Coecke’s compositions can be detected in later years, particularly after 1563, when Bruegel married Coecke’s daughter Mayken. In any case, the apprenticeship with Coecke represented an early contact with a humanistic milieu. Through Coecke, Bruegel became linked indirectly to another tradition as well. Coecke’s wife, Maria Verhulst Bessemers, was a painter known for her work in watercolour or tempera, a suspension of pigments in egg yolk or a glutinous substance, on linen. The technique was widely practiced in her hometown of Mechelen (Malines) and was later employed by Bruegel. It is also in the works of Mechelen’s artists that allegorical and peasant thematic material first appear. These subjects, unusual in Antwerp, were later treated by Bruegel. In 1551 or 1552 Bruegel set off on the customary northern artist’s journey to Italy, probably by way of France. From several extant paintings, drawings, and etchings, it can be deduced that he traveled beyond Naples to Sicily, possibly as far as Palermo, and that in 1553 he lived for some time in Rome, where he worked with a celebrated miniaturist, Giulio Clovio, an artist greatly influenced by Michelangelo and later a patron of the young El Greco. The inventory of Clovio’s estate shows that he owned a number of paintings and drawings by Bruegel as well as a miniature done by the two artists in collaboration. It was in Rome in 1553 that Bruegel produced his earliest signed and dated painting, Landscape with Christ and the Apostles at the Sea of Tiberias. The holy figures in this painting were probably done by Maarten de Vos, a painter from Antwerp then working in Italy.
Flemish Artist and Engraver
Little is known about the circumstances of Bruegel’s death, though in 1569, the final year of his life, the city council of Brussels released him from the obligation of working with a guard of Spanish soldiers stationed in his home, suggesting that the politically subversive content of his work was well understood. No paintings exist from this year, implying that Bruegel died from illness, but there is no way of ruling out a more sinister explanation. In any case, Bruegel’s relatively early demise, even for the period in which he lived, must be viewed as one of the tragedies of Renaissance art history.
He is sometimes referred to as “Peasant Bruegel”, to distinguish him from the many later painters in his family, including his son Pieter Brueghel the Younger (1564–1638). From 1559, he dropped the ‘h’ from his name and signed his paintings as Bruegel; his relatives continued to use “Brueghel” or “Breughel”.
Pieter Bruegel (also Brueghel or Breughel) the Elder ( / ˈ b r ɔɪ ɡ əl / ,    also US: / ˈ b r uː ɡ əl / ;   Dutch: [ˈpitər ˈbrøːɣəl] ( listen ) ; c. 1525–1530 – 9 September 1569) was the most significant artist of Dutch and Flemish Renaissance painting, a painter and printmaker from Brabant, known for his landscapes and peasant scenes (so-called genre painting); he was a pioneer in making both types of subject the focus in large paintings.