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(b ?nr. Breda, c.1525; d Brussels ?(5 Sept.) 1569). Netherlandish painter, draughtsman, and printmaker, the greatest artist of his time in northern Europe. There is little documentary evidence concerning his career, our knowledge of him depending mainly on van Mander's laudatory biography, published in 1604. This is a lively and useful source of information, but it misleadingly projects an image of Bruegel as ‘Pieter the Droll’, essentially a comic painter: ‘there are few works by his hand which the observer can contemplate solemnly and with a straight face’. Certainly there is humour in his work, but this is part of what Kenneth Clark calls his ‘all-embracing sympathy with humanity’, and his vision also includes horror, tragedy, and the implacable forces of nature.

Text source: The Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists (Oxford University Press)

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