Archive for April, 2010

Pieter Brueghel the Elder and The Hunters in the Snow

April 20, 2010

Pieter Brueghel the Elder and The Hunters in the Snow

             Pieter Brueghel the Elder (1525 – 1569) was born in Breda.  It is uncertain if it was the Dutch town of Breda or the Belgian town of Bree.  He was both a painter and printmaker. “Like Bosch Brueghel was concerned with Human folly; like Durer, he had traveled to Italy and embraced the Humanism of the Renaissance.” [Fiero 235]  His style built on the style of the Limbourg brothers.

            His genre paintings depicted everyday life of ordinary people.  It is rumored that Brueghel would disguise himself as a peasant to gain access to weddings and other celebrations to be able to accurately depict peasant life.  This practice earned him the nickname “Peasant Bruegel.  “Brueghel’s genre paintings … were not small-scale renderings but monumental transcriptions of rural activities sometimes infused with symbolic meanings.” [Fiero 235]

            One of Brueghel’s best-known and highly regarded paintings is The Hunters in the Snow (1565, oil on wood, 46” x 63 ¾”, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna).  The painting is part of a series depicting different times of the year.  Only five of the original six paintings still exist.  It is speculated that an additional six paintings in the series likely existed. 

            The painting depicts two unsuccessful hunters returning to their village with their pack of dogs.  It is a winter scene with barren trees, the ground is now covered, and ponds are iced over.  People appear to be skating on the ice.  There is a great deal of depth to the painting and detail in background.

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Raphael and The School of Athens

April 6, 2010

            Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (March 28, 1483 – April 6, 1520) or better known as Raphael along with Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo form the triumvirate of great High Renaissance artists.  His father, Giovanni Santi, was the court painter to the Duke of Urbino.  Growing up as part of the Duke’s court, he gained social skills and refinement that carried over into his art. “Raphael’s compositions are notable for their clarity, harmony and unity of design.” [Fiero 200]   

            Pope Julius II, in 1510, commissioned Raphael to paint a series of frescos for the pope’s personal library, Stanza della Segnatura.  The frescos were to represent the four domains of human knowledge, theology, philosophy, law and the arts.  Philosophy was represented by Raphael’s masterpiece, The School of Athens (1509- 1510, Fresco, 500 cm x 770 cm, Vatican City). 

In the center of the vanishing point of the painting walking towards us are the two great Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle. The scene is that of a Roman basilica and resembles the newly renovated Saint Peter’s Cathedral.  On both sides of the painting appear the great historical thinkers.  “In the restrained nobility of the near life-sized figures and the measured symmetry of the composition, Raphael’s School of Athens marked the culmination of a style that had begun with Giotto and Masaccio; here, Raphael gave concrete vision to a world purged of accident and emotion.” [Ferro 201]  This masterpiece “…epitomize[s] the Grand Style: spatial clarity, decorum (that is propriety and good taste), balance, unity of design, and grace.” [Ferro 201]

Works Cited

Fiero, Gloria K. Landmarks in Humanities. 2nd ed. 2006. New York: McGraw Hill, 2009. Print.