BRUEGEL, Flemish family of artists

Members of the family were active for four generations and were closely related to several other Flemish artists' families. Various spellings of the name have been used such as the later 'Breugel' and 'Brueghel.

The first important member of the family, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, was one of the greatest artists in 16th-century northern Europe. The influence of his work, particularly his allegories and landscapes (some of which were disseminated through engravings), was widespread and long-lasting. Bruegel's art combines religion, folklore and humanism and falls between the last elements of medieval mysticism of Bosch and the Baroque exuberance of Rubens. His son Pieter Brueghel the Younger is known primarily as his father's copyist, his works often providing the only evidence of lost compositions by Pieter the Elder. Pieter the younger's son Pieter Brueghel III (1589c. 1640) became a painter in 1608 and, like his father (although a lesser artist), was known as a copyist, mainly of his grandfather's work. Jan Breughel the Elder was also a son of Pieter the Elder; his work, however, was more individual than that of his brother, and he became a noted artist in his own right, specializing in flower-pieces and paradise scenes. Jan the Elder was renowned for his ability to convey textures through the medium of oil paint (hence his nickname 'Velvet Breughel'). Two of Jan's sons were reputable artists: Jan Breughel the Younger took over his father's studio and, in general, followed in his footsteps, while the work of Ambrosius Breughel, who also painted flower-pieces, is difficult to separate from that of other members of the family and still awaits closer study. In the next generation, three of Jan the Younger's sons were also painters in the style of their father, uncle and grandfather: Jan Pieter Breughel (1628-after 1682); Abraham Breughel; and Jan Baptist Breughel (16471710); Jan van Kessel II and David Teniers III (163885) were also grandsons of Jan Breughel the Elder.

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