Pieter Brueghel the Elder

Rockstar painter and (unknowingly) painter of album covers for rockstars
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Clayton Schuster

Sr. Contributor

Pieter Bruegel the Elder loved to party.

He's basically the 16th century Flemish artist equivalent of The Wedding Crashers. The only thing he loved more than partying was painting other people partying.

Like Wilson and Vaughn, Bruegel had an alter ego for carousing. He dressed up as a peasant, then found whatever local barn raising or wedding or christening, or whatever, was going on that day and left his problems at the manor. Some clarification of 'dressed up as a peasant' is necessary because he came from old money. Suffice it to say that he wouldn't need a loan for art school, and he wouldn't be living in the dorms unless he wanted to (he would want to). He was cavorting as a peasant so often that he gained the nickname Peasant Bruegel. That probably isn't a strain of nicknames someone could get away with today. "Hey everyone, Poverty Susan is coming to our party!" Despite crashing peasant soirees for inspiration and focusing a plurality of works on the minutiae of their festivities, most of his patrons were scholars and wealthy businessmen. Not to be too harsh...but that kind of makes Peasant Bruegel a sell-out. 

Another favorite subject of his, though you'd never expect it, was The Spanish Inquisition. Bruegel wasn't a fan. The Spanish were running amok throughout the Low Countries, putting good God-fearing folk to the dish rack left and right for not believing in God properly. However, the Inquisition didn't even try censoring OR censuring Bruegel. It seemed he was untouchable. It probably didn't hurt, though, that his most fervent patrons were the Habsburgs in Vienna (which is why a full third of his extant works are available for viewing in Austria instead of Belgium or The Netherlands). The Habsburgs were also the family on the throne in Spain, instigating the Inquisition. This leaves open the question of whether The Spanish Inquisition was really just a ploy by the Habsburgs to push Bruegel toward greater artistic success for their own enrichment. The only answer seems to be DIABOLICAL LAUGHTER.

Peasant Bruegel is also the progenitor and unquestionably best painter of an artistic dynasty stretching four generations. It all started when Bruegel married his teacher's daughter, Mayken. Their sons, Pieter Bruegel the Younger and Jan Bruegel the Elder, would go on to achieve recognition through their own painting careers. However, with their father dead by the time they were young children, Pete Sr's influence on the brats is minimal. They were taught by Mayken's mother, famous for her tempera works and, also, an established artist. Whenever the boys asked about their father, it's easy to imagine Mayken tearing up, staring into the distance and saying, "History will remember him... for his keg stands."

Pieter Brueghel the Elder is mentioned on Sartle Blog -