Born: c.1525; Breda, Netherlands
Died: 09 September 1569; Brussels, Belgium
Field: painting, printmaking
Art Movement: Northern Renaissance
Genre: genre painting
Pieter Brueghel the Elder was an innovative Flemish Renaissance painter and printmaker, known for his sweeping landscapes and peasant scenes. He was apprenticed early in his life to painter Pieter Croecke van Aelst, and in 1551 around the age of 26 he as accepted into a painter’s guild in Antwerp as a master painter.
His nickname was “Peasant Brueghel,” as he would often don peasant’s clothing and attend social gatherings and weddings, in order to mingle and interact with the locals, and gain insight and inspiration for his paintings. He also fathered two other prominent Flemish painters, Pieter Brueghel the Younger and Jan Brueghel the Elder, although it is thought that they were not taught by their father, as he died when they were young children.
As a pioneer in Netherlandish genre painting, he portrayed social aspects of 16th century life, many of which were paintings of peasants, with a large landscape element. Many of his works show the influence of Heironymous Bosch, the Dutch master painter. He also created some of the earliest form of social commentary in his paintings, and reportedly asked while laying on his deathbed to have the most subversive of the paintings burned, in order for his family to avoid political persecution.