The Bruegel exhibition in Vienna is the setting for an amazing encounter. About half of all the extant works by Pieter Bruegel the Elder are on show. About forty paintings, sixty drawings and eighty prints can be attributed to him today.
It happens as 2019 sees the 450th anniversary of the death of Pieter Bruegel the Elder (c. 1525/30 – 1569).
This ’summit’ of masterpieces is a small miracle. Many of these international loans are so old and fragile that they hardly ever travel, and many of the works on show in the Bruegel exhibition have never before left their hometowns.
There are a number of reasons why Vienna is the ideal location for this encounter.
It marks the first time that works produced by Bruegel in different media – paintings, drawings and prints – have been united in a single exhibition. Thanks to a number of Habsburg collectors and connoisseurs, the Kunsthistorisches Museum houses the world’s largest collection of paintings by Pieter Bruegel the Elder.
Almost a third of the master’s extant paintings are in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.
The sensational number of loaned works by Bruegel in other media is the result of a close collaboration between scholars, experts and museums from all over the world.
Pieter Bruegel as a wry social critic
In his compositions, Bruegel has preserved for us his view of the society in which he lived. He courageously visualized various facets of both the life of his contemporaries and of modern society: many of the central themes in his work remain highly relevant today. While the peasantry was often ridiculed in sixteenth-century art, Bruegel does not seem to share this coarse approach despite his byname Peasant Bruegel.
The painter frequently added humorous detail to his works, even including animals in the subtle glances that create a connection between the onlooker and the pictorial worlds.
Experiencing Bruegel’s world
This sixteenth-century Netherlandish painter and draughtsman revolutionized many aspects and genres of painting. He is a storyteller, a satirist and a social critic.
By depicting a wealth of details, Bruegel invites us to dive into his pictorial world. Also on show in the exhibition are objects similar to those depicted in his pictures, breathing life into quotidian objects from Bruegel’s time.