CfP “Pieter Bruegel the Elder and his predecessors” (Brussel, 24-25 Januari 2019)

Pieter Bruegel the Elder and his predecessors:  

Culture and Visual art and in the late 15th and 16th centuries

Masterclass with Reindert Falkenburg and Michel Weemans, organised by the Vlaamse werkgroep mediëvistiek (VWM) and the Réseau des médiévistes  belges de langue française (RMBLF)

2019 marks the 450th anniversary of the death of Pieter Bruegel the Elder (c. 1525/30-1569), one of the most renowned Flemish artists of the 16th century. In Belgium, several exhibitions (at the KBR, the MRBAB-KMSKB, the Mayer van den Bergh Museum, the Castle of Gaasbeek…) and other scientific activities are planned to highlight the artistic production of the master. This “Bruegel year” constitutes a great opportunity for the VWM and the RMBLF to explore this fascinating personality and the artistic, cultural and intellectual context in which he emerged through a vivid dialogue between young and senior scholars. Indeed, we aim at taking part to this celebration by organizing a masterclass with two specialists of Pieter Bruegel’s work, Reindert Falkenburg (NYU Abu Dhabi) and Michel Weemans (ENSA Bourges and EHESS), whose forthcoming book explores the religious and exegetical character of Bruegel’s landscapes and their relationship with landscape painters of the first half of the 16th century such as Hieronymus Bosch, Joachim Patinir or Herri met de Blès.[1] This masterclass will gather up to eight young researchers (PhD students, postdocs, young lecturers) coming from various disciplines (art history, literature, history…) who will have the opportunity to present and discuss their work on the visual art and culture at the time of Pieter Bruegel the Elder and his predecessors with both respondents and the audience.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder is a complex artistic figure. Often considered as “both a proponent and an exponent of popular culture”[2], the Flemish painter was also appreciated and admired by the high nobility whose members praised the exceptional quality of his oeuvre and owned paintings by his hand. His work also enjoyed a great deal of success among a wider audience thanks to the diffusion of his engravings. From an artistic point of view, Bruegel was deeply influenced by the Flemish pictorial tradition of the late 15th and early 16th century, and especially by Hieronymus Bosch. He also played a crucial role in the emergence of genre and landscape painting, a topic which is at the core of the new publication of Michel Weemans and Reindert Falkenburg. Bruegel also had close links with humanists and scholars such as Abraham Ortelius, and with the Antwerp chambers of rhetoric (rederijkerskamers) like the Violieren (the Gillyflower). In other words, he belonged to the Antwerp intellectual circles of his time. His artistic production is deeply influenced by this intellectual and cultural context, just as it nurtured it in return.

Recent scholarship on Bruegel[3] has highlighted the multi-layered complexity of his (painted, printed and drawn) pictures, which are rooted in the rich artistic, cultural and literary context that we will investigate during this masterclass. More precisely, we would like Pieter Bruegel the Elder to act as a prism through which young scholars will explore, among others, the visual interactions between artists and between pictorial practices, the relationships between literary groups such as the rederijkers and the visual culture of their time, the social and intellectual networks of Pieter Bruegel and other Flemish artists of the late 15th century and 16th century, the impact of the complex religious context on the artistic production of the time, the links between humanists and artists, the influence of Flemish artists of the previous generations on Bruegel and his contemporaries, etc.

Early career researchers are invited to submit proposals for a 15-minutes paper. The languages of the masterclass will be Dutch, French, and English. A description of the proposed paper (max. one page) and a short CV should be submitted to Micol Long ( and Ingrid Falque (, no later than October 15. Selected researchers will be notified in the first week of November.

This masterclass is jointly organised by the Vlaamse Werkgroep Mediëvistiek (Flemish Medievalist Association) and the Réseau des Médiévistes belges de Langue Française (Network of French-speaking Belgian Medievalists), with financial support of the F.R.S.-FNRS and the Fondation pour la protection du patrimoine culturel, historique et artisanal (Lausanne). The event will take place In Brussels (precise location to be announced later) on 25 January. On 24 January, Michel Weemans and Reindert Falkenburg will give a public lecture on their forthcoming book. Further practical details will be announced at a later stage.

[1] Reindert L. Falkenburg and Michel Weemans, Bruegel (Paris, Hazan: 2018).

[2] Mark Meadow, Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s Netherlandish Proverbs and the Practice of Rhetoric (Zwolle, Waanders Publishers: 2002), 14.

[3] See among others: Walter S. Gibson, Pieter Bruegel and the Art of Laughter (Berkeley, University of California press<: 2006); Todd M. Richardson, Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Art Discourse in the Sixteenth-Century Netherlands (Farnham, Ashgate: 2011); Bertram Kaschek, Weltzeit und Endzeit. Die »Monatsbilder« Piter Bruegels d.Ä. (München, Wilhelm Fink Verlag: 2012); Christina Currie and Dominique Allart, The Brueg(H)el Phenomenon. Paintings by Pieter Bruegel the Elder and Pieter Brueghel the Younger with a Special Focus on Technique and Copying Practice (Brussels, Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage: 2012); Claudia Goldstein, Pieter Bruegel and the Culture of Early Modern Dinner Party (Farnham, Ashgate: 2013); Stephen Graham Hitchins, Art as History, history as Art. Jheronymus Bosch and Pieter Bruegel the Elder Assembling Knowledge not Setting Puzzles (Turnhout, Brepols: 2014); Jospeh Leo Koerner, Bosch and Bruegel. From Enemy Painting to Everyday Life (Princeton, Princeton University Press: 2016).