Bruegel: Legacy and Ingenuity

Chapter3: Bruegel and the pictorial traditions of his time

Landscape with Saint John the Baptist Preaching (unknown - unknown) by Joachim PatenierRoyal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium

In Antwerp, landscapes became a pictorial theme of their own from the beginning of the 16th century.

Landscape with the Fall of Icarus (undated) by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (after?)Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium

Bruegel adds his own touch of genius to the emerging tradition of Antwerp landscapes. In this painting by Bruegel, we find the plunging view and successive planes, each with its own shade.

Triptych with the Family of St Anne (1509/1509) by Quentin MatsysRoyal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium

From the 16th century, the representation of the human figure in the Low Countries is influenced by Italian artists such as Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci. At the turn of the 16th century, this painting represented the beginning of the Flemish art Renaissance.

The Wedding Dance (1607) by Pieter Brueghel II (according to Pieter Bruegel the Elder)Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium

Bruegel's characters do not have the same Italian mannerisms which were in fashion in the North. His figures are generous in size, expressive and sometimes even caricatural. Their dynamism would later inspire numerous painters.

The Census at Bethlehem (1566) by Pieter Bruegel the ElderRoyal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium


Composition, perspective, graphism, expressive silhouettes, and narrative story-telling are brilliantly used by the Bruegel to produce effective, beautiful and touching images. He invents new ways of representing the world around him by telling stories in history.

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