The biographers of Peter Bruegel the Elder had to work hard to collect from the scanty number of known facts the history and life path of this painter from the Netherlands.
We can say that, perhaps, this is one of the ambiguous personalities in the history of painting. Only three authentic documents found about Peter Bruegel. Even the year and place of his birth is indicated presumably from 1525 to 1530. According to some sources, the artist was born in Breda, according to other sources in the town of Bregel - a village near the town of Kampen. From her, he could get his last name.
It is also not known who his parents are, nevertheless it is assumed that he was born into a peasant family. How and when he began to show interest in drawing, who was his first teacher and many other questions about the life of Peter during his childhood and adolescence remained unexplained for posterity.
In 1545, inexplicably, the young man ends up in Antwerp - the Dutch large, bustling, maritime port city. Here he visits the workshop of the famous artist at the court of King Charles V - Peter Cook van Aalst and takes painting lessons from him. But young Bruegel prefers graphics. To do this, he goes to work for the enterprising Jerome Kok, who was engaged in printing and selling prints.
The first known official document mentioned above is an entry in the magazine of the Guild of Painters named after St. Luke that Peter Bruegel joined it in 1551.
In order for Brueghel to be recognized as a true and full-fledged artist, in 1552 he went on a trip to Italy, to get acquainted with recognized masters, to study with them and create his own works, paintings and prints.
The most amazing thing is that the Mediterranean beauties and the work of Italian luminaries of painting completely did not affect the work of this strange Dutchman. Although the charm of Rome, its ancient monuments and frescoes, famous masterpieces of the Renaissance, of course, led the artist in admiration. The painting "View of Naples" is perhaps the only work from Italy - a beautiful view of the sea landscape. In the Italian period, Peter Bruegel worked with the master Giulio Clovio, who was famous for his miniatures that adorned prayer books and theological manuscripts and books.
The Dutchman spent the whole year traveling and, having returned to Antwerp, he again works at the printing house of I. Kok, making many prints on various topics.
In 1557, he created a series of engravings on mortal sins. And in 1558 his first painting “The Fall of Icarus” saw the light of day. A very interesting work is precisely the idea of the author about the immensity of the world around him and about such a small person compared to the universe. Next are the paintings "The Triumph of Death" and "The Fall of the Angels."
1563 is a happy year for Peter Brueghel, he marries the daughter of his former teacher and moves to Brussels. Marriage registration with Maria Van Aalst is the second known and preserved document regarding Brueghel’s biography.
Peter Brueghel the Elder will be the ancestor of an entire dynasty of artists. His two sons Peter Brueghel the Younger (Hellish), Jan Brueghel the Elder (Paradise), grandson Jan Brueghel the Younger and great-grandchildren Abraham and Jan will also later become painters.
The time since 1564 can be considered the heyday of Brueghel's work. He is the author of such works as “Adoration of the Magi”, a magnificent series of paintings “The Seasons”, “The Census in Bethlehem”, “Misanthrope”, the famous “Tower of Babel”, “Wedding Dance”.
It is a pity that little information is known about this artist, because for all his life he did not draw either his self-portrait or portraits of his family, did not leave any letters or diaries. It seems that he was a fairly enlightened person. And yet, what he lived with, what his thoughts were, and how he understood his purpose, one can only guess from his work.
For example, “The Triumph of Death” and “Beating the Babies” leave a feeling of hopelessness and longing, but the works “Peasant Dance” or “Country of Lazy People” delight with enthusiasm and a sense of humor.
In general, the author’s works are distinguished by the fact that he writes all his life simple, peasant people. Perhaps because of this fact he was nicknamed Muzhitsky. He does not set out to convey the accuracy of the characters, but he grasps the general contour of the figure, its character.
The third document from the life of Peter Brueghel is a document about the death in 1569 and the burial on September 9 in the city of Brussels.
Not many paintings by the artist have survived to this day, but they are worth revising and considering, they have meaning and thoughts about life and about a person’s place in it.