Artist, Composer, Inventor I, Jan Van Lindholm
I, Jan Van Lindholm, was born in 1538. For my entire life, I have wanted to be an artist, and I was lucky enough to be chosen as the apprentice of Master Pieter Bruegel. Ever since I was a small child, I longed to create art. In my life with Master Bruegel, I have seen many things from the Swiss Alps to the small peasant villages outside of the now booming metropolis of Antwerp. Although I stand small in the shadow of the great artist, I have gradually mastered my craft under Master Bruegel’s patient instruction.
Master Bruegel was born in the village o[f Bruegel (for which his family is named) outside of Antwerp. I believe that Bruegel first discovered the beauty of the spirit of the individual instead of the physical person in his childhood village. This is where he was able to get to know people from all areas of life and learn from them in subtle ways.
My master was first apprenticed to the engraver, Pieter Coeke. Antwerp is a great printing center, and Master Coeke was known more for his publishing rather than his art. This is where Bruegel first learned stone cutting. Bruegel would go on to create many skillful engravings during his career as an artist.
In 1551, Bruegel was enrolled in the painter’s guild in Antwerp and was shortly given the title of Master. At this time, Antwerp was a harsh place, especially for painters. Commissions had ceased, and the public sale of art had greatlÈy diminished. The economy of The Netherlands was failing, and war with the king of France was pending. It was a horrible time for artists, and Bruegel was forced to give up his artwork for a time and return to the engraving craft.
He was able to shine his creative rays again when, in 1555, he joined the studio of the engraver Jerome Cock. Cock influenced Master Bruegel to take a trip to Italy and truly fulfill his training as an artist. A visit to the high places of Italian art, a study of the ancients and the sharing of ideas between the Italian and Flemish ways of art was considered the final step in an artists’ training. Also, Cock saw this as a good business opportunity. Master Bruegel would come back with fresh ideas, new techniques, and inspiring subjects which he could paint. Cock knew how much these beautiful pieces of art would be worth. But, this was not the only reason for Bruegel’s flight; he felt the need to explore the world, and discover himself.
I became apprenticedÚ to my master just before this trip. I had been an apprentice of Jerome Cock’s when he made Master Bruegel his partner. I was selected to apprentice with Bruegel and travel with him to Italy and explore the new ideas of Italian artists.
We traveled south, circumventing the Alps. We stopped in Rome and spent a couple weeks at the studio of Givlio Clovio. We then traveled south to Naples and Sicily, learning new styles and teaching “new” styles. We traveled all the way south to Calabria. Our arrival coincided with the arrival of the Turks. The city was attacked, and this is when Master Bruegelpainted his work, “Reggio in Flames”. Standing 1.63x1.83m, this work is one of his most powerful pieces. Dark, evil colors surround the bright flames that engulf the city in this masterpiece. The fierce battle made quite an impression on us.
On our trip home, Master Bruegel insisted upon traveling throughout the cold, blustery Alps. His real artistic inspiration did not come from the Italian artists,¡ but rather from these gargantuan, snow-covered mountains. Master would sketch them for hours at night, perfecting the sharp, jagged ridges and smoothing out the snowy crests. He developed a new style of landscape art. Instead of painting people, he now started to paint the vast areas of mountains. An example of this influence can be seen in his work, ”Hunters in the Snow” which he painted later in his life. It is a fine example of his landscape style. Even though the painting includes detailed scenes of the winter activities of the villagers, a main emphasis is on the mountains in the background. In this work, he placed local townspeople in a scene with towering mountains that do not exist in the geographic area that he was painting.
We returned home, and with the incoming money from the sales of the beautiful landscape paintings and engravings, we traveled north, exploring The Netherlands, and living among the peasant people for a year. We thâen came back to Antwerp where we settled. Master then began an era of his life in which he constantly was creating art. This period began with his marriage to his master’s daughter, Mayken Coeke.
I began to see in him a revived interest in peasant life and in the life of the workers. We would dress up in peasant clothing and sneak out into the villages. Master Bruegel would then return to the studio to paint what he had seen that day, be it depressing and bleak, or joyous and bright. It was during this time that he painted three of his greatest works:”The Bride’s Dance,” “The Tower of Babel” and “The Fall of the Rebel Angels”.
“The Bride’s Dance” is a beautiful piece that shows elegance and simplicity of peasant life. It is the quintessential Bruegel. The darkness of the scene, the crowds of peasants, the attention to detail and background landscape all make this into one of Bruegel’’s greatest works. The observer can vividly imagine the sounds and smells of this scene and the personalities of the characters. Bruegel was deeply involved in the everyday lives of his fellow countrymen.
During this time, Master Bruegel also became very interested in religious themes and moral implications in his art. This kind of thinking inspired his work-”The Tower of Babel.” He combined many of the aspects of style together to form this painting. He paints the building towering over the lowly peasants at the bottom right of the painting with the main figures in the foreground. Their faces are round, and fleshy. The men at the bottom right symbolize man, and the tower symbolizes a powerful but loving God. Master Bruegel had very new ideas in human rights and religion as well as art. He was member of the House of Love. This is a humanist group that preach humility, tolerance, avoidance of sin and a relationship with God that did not need an intermediary such as ¬the Catholic Church. Much of his art conveys humility and other beliefs that were strongly held by this religious group.
“The Fall of the Rebel Angels” is another work that is very beautiful. In this, Master Bruegel’s religious imagery shows similarities to the fantastic characters in the work of Hieronymous Bosch, an earlier famous painter. Evil devils are battling Angels of light. Light shines down going from the top right of the canvas to the dark, nightmarish bottom left corner of the canvas.
Another work of Bruegel’s that displays qualities of Hieronymous Bosch was the oil painting-”Dulle Griet” or “Mad Meg”(painted in 1562). In this horrific painting, the main character is a woman going into the mouth of hell on a plundering expedition. This painting is filled with evil, twisted, and malformed people, very similar to those of Hieronymous Bosch. It has the same basic them as “The Fall of the Rebel Angels”, that is good vs. evil. It is onoe of his most intricate, detailed pieces. I believe that the main character in Bruegel’s painting represents the sin of greediness. Her sin has led her into the mouth of hell, where she will be trapped forever.
Between 1560 and 1569, when he died, Bruegel was mainly interested in large oil on canvas paintings. At the end of his life, with my help, he burned many of his etchings, sketches, and even some of his large oils, because he was afraid that some of the things that his work implied would get his wife into trouble after his death. This was the last thing that I was able to help my master do before his death.
He expressed the essence of humanism through his painting. Bruegel discovered a part of the universe in which humans play a part. He first started to paint the now instead of the past. Bruegel also wanted to touch people with his painting. He painted both laughter and sadness, courage and lost hope. He had a strong sense of himself, but was a rather quiet man. He hated authority, but instead of voicing his opinion, he would do it subtly through his art(or sometimes not so subtly). Overall, BUruegel could be described as an independent minded man and a quiet mocker of authority who was ahead of his day in his wisdom and enlightenment.
I was very glad to serve Master Bruegel in any way that I could, and I learned much from him. Master had a strong sense of form, but he also had a compulsive side to his artwork. He was a “complete” artist and had everything that was needed in the perfect composition. Bruegel’s work stands out against the background of Dutch and Flemish Painting. He brought new life to art by making his characters more real and by exploring the spiritual individual as well as the physical person. He was the first Flemish artist to explore landscapes and the first to give his figures a sense of rounded, full bodiness. He did not adapt any styles of the Italian Renaissance, but rather created his own Renaissance.
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A Wizard of Earthsea, Le Guin, Carlos Castaneda, Narnia
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