The Art of Pieter Bruegel and the Culture of the Reformation

Instructor: Noel Schiller

The paintings and prints of Pieter Bruegel the Elder and his contemporaries offer a fascinating point of entry into the art and culture of the sixteenth century in Northern Europe. This course spans the tumultuous period of the Reformation, Iconoclasm, and Antwerp’s apogee as a center of art and trade. We’ll employ Bruegel’s work as a touchstone that offers us access to other artistic and cultural currents of the period by thematically focusing on such topics as: Bruegel’s formulation of a ‘vernacular’ Northern artistic idiom and his self-conscious response to earlier artists such as Hieronymus Bosch, Bruegel’s reinterpretation of the Italian Renaissance, and the relationship between image, text, and language in Bruegel’s depictions of proverbs. In addition, we‘ll investigate Bruegel’s pictorial legacy in the seventeenth century by examining the works of Jan Brueghel, Pieter Brueghel the Younger, Adriaen Brouwer, Jan Steen and others. We’ll explore the art historical controversies surrounding images and the act of interpretation, comic peasants and notions of comedy, and the relationship between art and contemporary theatre and performance.

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