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  • Pieter Bruegel the Elder ( Dutch c. 1525 -- 9 September 1569) was a Flemish Renaissance painter and printmaker known for his landscapes and peasant scenes (so called genre painting). He is sometimes referred to as the "Peasant Bruegel." From 1559 he dropped the 'h' from his name and signed his paintings as Bruegel.The main source for Bruegel's biography is Karel van Mander's 1604 Schilder-boeck. According to van Mander, he was born in Breugel near the (now Dutch) town of Breda. There are however also records that show that he was born in Breda, and there is some uncertainty whether the (now Belgian) town of Bree, called Breda in Latin, is meant.
    He was an apprentice of Pieter Coecke van Aelst, whose daughter Mayken he later married. He spent some time in France and Italy, and then went to Antwerp, where in 1551 he was accepted as a master in the painter's guild. He traveled to Italy soon after, and then returned to Antwerp before settling in Brussels permanently 10 years later.
    He received the nickname 'Peasant Bruegel' or 'Bruegel the Peasant' for his alleged practice of dressing up like a peasant in order to mingle at weddings and other celebrations, thereby gaining inspiration and authentic details for his genre paintings. He died in Brussels on 9 September 1569 and was buried in the Kapellekerk. Bruegel specialized in genre paintings populated by peasants, often with a landscape element, but he also painted religious works. Making the life and manners of peasants the main focus of a work was rare in painting in Bruegel's time, and he was a pioneer of the Netherlandish genre painting. His earthy, unsentimental but vivid depiction of the rituals of village life—including agriculture, hunts, meals, festivals, dances, and games—are unique windows on a vanished folk culture and a prime source of iconographic evidence about both physical and social aspects of 16th century life. For example, the painting Netherlandish Proverbs illustrates dozens of then-contemporary aphorisms (many of them still in use in current Dutch or Flemish), and Children's Games shows the variety of amusements enjoyed by young people. His winter landscapes of 1565 (e.g. The Hunters in the Snow) are taken as corroborative evidence of the severity of winters during the Little Ice Age.Bruegel's paintings were on a larger scale than a typical calendar page painting, each one approximately three feet by five feet. For Bruegel, this was a large commission (the size of a commission was based on how large the painting was) and an important one. In 1565, the Calvinist riots began and it was only two years before the Eighty Years' War broke out. Bruegel may have felt safer with a secular commission so as to not offend Calvinist or Catholic. Some of the most famous paintings from this series included The Hunters in the Snow (December--January) and The Harvesters (August).

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