Fri 12 Oct 2012
The Tel Aviv Museum of Art hosts during these months one of the most interesting exhibition of classical masters paintings that I have seen lately. All His Sons: The Bruegel Dynasty gathers works of Pieter Bruegel the Elder, of his sons Jan Bruegel the Elder and Pieter Bruegel the Younger, and of several of his grand-sons and grand-grand-sons created during a century spreading from the last decades of the 16th century and most of the 17th century. The show is put together with Villa Olmo in Como, Italy and is based on paintings from museums in Viena and Tel Aviv as well as from private collections.
Before entering the first of the three halls of the exhibition I recommend studying the genealogy of the artists in the family displayed at the entry. The founder of the dynasty was Pieter Bruegel the Elder whose famous The Babel Tower is reproduced above is present with only a few paintings in the exhibition, and a few more works from his studio or worked in cooperation with other artists. It looks like cooperative work was quite popular in the Low Countries of these times, with different painters taking responsibility of various areas of the painting according to their specific skills and interests.
The Peasant Bruegel as he was sometimes called, Pieter Bruegel the Elder specialized in genre paintings that represented the life, habits, daily dealings of commoners of his time – here is one of the best known works in this area – Children’s Games
Pieter Breughel the Younger was the inheritor of the style and many of the themes of his father – up to copying works of his father. This is the case of the wonderful The Birdtrap, 1605, whose lovely composition and frozen palette was originally designed by The Elder.
Also inspired by a work of his father Pieter Breughel the Younger’s The Outdoor Wedding Dance ca. 1610, is a more free treatment of the same theme, with a diversity of colorful characters that prove that the son was a fine master on his own, deserving all the respect.
The flowers composition is another genre which was approached by the descendents of Bruegel. Jan Brueghel the Elder and Jan Brueghel the Younger joined forces to create Still Life of Tulips and Roses in a Glass Vase Resting on a Table, dated 1620-21. Jan Brueghel the Elder collaborated also with other painters contributing with his floral compositions – among the artists he worked with the best known was Rubens.
Here is another collaboration of his in a different genre – the mythical allegories – Jan Brueghel the Younger and Hendrick van Balen, The Allegory of the Four Elements, ca. 1630-35
The latest section in the exhibition show the development of new genres. As the Netherlands became one of the world’s maritime powers illustrations of animals, plants, insects from all over the world became a popular genre. One of the remarkable exponents of the genre was Jan van Kessel the Elder, a grand-grandson of Pieter Bruegel the Elder whose A study of Butterflies and other Insects, 1671 is present in the exhibition.