Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1525/30–1569) is best known today for his paintings of peasant life, yet it was through his exceptional graphic work that he achieved widespread fame during his lifetime. Starting out as a print designer for publisher Hieronymus Cock, Bruegel produced numerous print series that depicted demons, virtuous souls, fools and beleaguered peasants tilling the soil. Often Bruegel produced what one early observer called ‘fantasies and bizarre things, dreams and imaginations’ that were closely based on the work of Hieronymus Bosch and inspired his contemporaries to call him the second Bosch.
Published as part of the Bruegel anniversary year celebrations, this luxurious book accompanies the exhibition at the Royal Library of Belgium, Brussels, which is renowned as a pioneer in Bruegel scholarship and holds an unparalleled collection of the artist’s graphic work. Essays by a distinguished group of Bruegel scholars open the book. They discuss the Royal Library of Belgium’s collection of Bruegel prints; the results of the Fingerprint research project; Bruegel as draughtsman and printmaker; Bruegel’s editions, in particular his collaboration with Hieronymus Cock; and the posthumous survival of his art. The essays are followed by 80 reproductions of his drawings, all published at the size of the original works.