The Bruegelians: Formation and Canonization of Peasant Imagery in the Tradition of Pieter Bruegel the Elder
Payne, Brighton Kelley
Wheelock, Jr., Arthur K.
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ABSTRACT Title of Dissertation: THE BRUEGELIANS: FORMATION AND CANONIZATION OF PEASANT IMAGERY IN THE TRADITION OF PIETER BRUEGEL THE ELDER Brighton Kelley Payne, Doctor of Philosophy, 2017 Dissertation directed by: Professor Arthur K. Wheelock, Department of Art History and Archaeology Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s peasant imagery has come to be the picture of mid-sixteenth-century Flemish art and a reflection of the native countryside before the ravages of the Dutch Revolt. A hundred years later, its impact on seventeenth-century Dutch and Flemish low-life genre scenes by Adriaen Brouwer, Adriaen van Ostade, David Teniers the Younger, and Jan Steen is undeniable. This dissertation examines the longevity of Bruegel the Elder’s subjects, manner, and motifs, identifying how and why this imagery retained its appeal through years of drastic social and political change. The acquisition of Bruegel the Elder’s paintings by the highest pinnacle of society, Emperor Rudolf II and his Austrian Habsburg kin, fueled an existing market of emulative paintings and prints. Identification of the artists who supplied these works and their relationship to Bruegel the Elder and his imagery reveals that many artists, particularly Marten van Cleve and Karel van Mander, contributed subjects and manner to a period style later associated with Breugel the Elder. Foremost in the process of appropriating peasant imagery under the name Bruegel were Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s two painter sons, Pieter Brueghel the Younger and Jan Brueghel the Elder, and Karel van Mander, whose Het Schilderboeck (1604) canonized Bruegel the Elder as the archetypal landscape and peasant painter. Three case studies trace the trajectory of Bruegelian imagery from the middle of the sixteenth century to the middle of the seventeenth century. A contrast with emulative works by Bruegelian artists reveals the singularity of Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s artistry.