Pieter Bruegel the Elder: Art Discourse in the Sixteenth-Century Netherlands, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Art Discourse in the Sixteenth-Century Netherlands, 1st Edition

By Todd M. Richardson


272 pages

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Pieter Bruegel the Elder: Art Discourse in the Sixteenth-Century Netherlands examines the later images by Bruegel in the context of two contemporary discourses - art theoretical and convivial. The first concerns the purely visual interactions between artists and artistic practices that unfold in pictures, which often transgress the categorical boundaries modern scholars place on their work, such as sacred and profane, antique and modern, and Italian and Northern. In this context, the images themselves - those of Bruegel, his contemporaries and predecessors - make up the primary source material from which the author argues. The second deals with the dialogue that occurred between viewers in front of pictures and the way in which pictorial strategies facilitated their visual experience and challenged their analytical capabilities. In this regard, the author expands his base of primary sources to include convivial texts, dialogues and correspondences, and texts by rhetoricians and Northern humanists addressing art theoretical issues. Challenging the conventional wisdom that the artist eschewed Italianate influences, this study demonstrates how Bruegel's later peasant paintings reveal a complicated artistic dialogue in which visual concepts and pictorial motifs from Italian and classical ideas are employed for a subject that was increasingly recognized in the sixteenth century as a specifically Northern phenomenon. Similar to the Dutch rhetorician societies and French Pléiade poets who cultivated the vernacular language using classical Latin, the function of this interpictorial discourse, the author argues, was not simply to imitate international trends, a common practice during the period, but to use it to cultivate his own visual vernacular language. Although the focus is primarily on Bruegel's later work, the author's conclusions are applied to sketch a broader understanding of both the artist himself and the vibrant artistic dialogue occurring in the Netherl


'… Richardson provides a detailed visual analysis of the painter’s artistic intentions… Recommended.' Choice

'Richardson’s major contribution lies in reminding us of the artistry of Bruegel’s art, its sophisticated awareness of the complex artistic milieu in which it was produced.' Renaissance Quarterly

'… to the often-repeated thesis that Bruegel’s contemporaries responded to his paintings chiefly by deciphering their disguised symbolism, Richardson offers a more plausible alternative, which deserves further exploration.' Burlington Magazine

Table of Contents

Contents: Preface; Introduction; Vernacular discourse and the art/nature debate; Art, conversation, and the convivium tradition; Feast your eyes, feast your mind; Classicizing the popular or popularizing the classics; He that cometh after me; To see yourself within it; Conclusion: Hans Vredeman de Vries and Pieter Bruegel: an artistic confrontation; Bibliography; Index.

About the Author

Todd M. Richardson is an assistant professor of Renaissance and Baroque Art History at the University of Memphis, USA. He is also co-editor of The Transformation of Vernacular Expression in Early Modern Arts (2011) and an editor for the book series, Proteus: Studies in Early Modern Identity Formation.

About the Series

Visual Culture in Early Modernity

A forum for the critical inquiry of the visual arts in the early modern world, Visual Culture in Early Modernity promotes new models of inquiry and new narratives of early modern art and its history. We welcome proposals for both monographs and essay collections that consider the cultural production and reception of images and objects. The range of topics covered in this series includes, but is not limited to, painting, sculpture and architecture as well as material objects, such as domestic furnishings, religious and/or ritual accessories, costume, scientific/medical apparata, erotica, ephemera and printed matter. We seek innovative investigations of western and non-western visual culture produced between 1400 and 1800.




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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
ART / History / Renaissance