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The following text was written and submitted by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher of Laguna Woods, California:
Pieter Bruegel, usually known as Pieter Breugel the Elder to distinguish him from his elder son, was the first in a family of Flemish painters. He spelled his name "Brueghel" until 1559 and his sons retained the "h" in the spelling of their names. Another change is spelling the name Breughel, sometimes without the "h", used at different times during their lives. Confusing.
He was generally considered the greatest Flemish painter of the 16th century and is by far the most important member of the family. He was probably born in Breda in the Duchy of Brabant, now in the Netherlands, in 1525. Accepted as a master in the Antwerp painters' guild in 1551, he was apprenticed to Coecke van Aelst, a leading Antwerp artist, sculptor, architect and designer of tapestry and stained glass.
Bruegel traveled to Italy in 1551 or 1552, completing a number of paintings, mostly landscapes, there. Returning home in 1553, he settled in Antwerp but ten years later moved permanently to Brussels. He married van Aelst's daughter, Mayken, in 1563. His association with the van Aelst family drew Bruegel to the artistic traditions of the Mechelen (now Malines) region in which allegorical and peasant themes run strongly. His paintings, including his landscapes and scenes of peasant life, stress the absurd and vulgar, yet are full of zest and fine detail. They also expose human weaknesses and follies. He was sometimes called the "peasant Bruegel."
Bruegel developed an original style that uniformly holds narrative meaning. In subject matter he ranged widely, from conventional Biblical scenes ad parables of Christ to mythological portrayals to religious allegories in the style of Hieronymous Bosch and social satires. But it was in nature that he found his greatest inspiration. His mountain landscapes have few parallels in European art; about forty of his paintings survive to this day. Popular in his own day, his works have remained consistently popular. He died in Brussels between September 5 and 9, 1569.
From the internet, WebMuseum, Paris
Barbara MacAdam in Vasari Diary in ARTnews, December 1993