Sketch: Bruegel’s The Harvesters

Posted on September 22, 2016

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Pieter Bruegel the Elder. The Harvesters. 1565. oil on wood. (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Pieter Bruegel the Elder. The Harvesters. 1565. oil on wood. (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

The Harvesters: peasants and landscape. Of all Bruegel’s seasonal paintings, this one combines these two to greatest effect. This landscape is impossible without these people, Bruegel seems to say, just as the people are impossible without this place. Each gives the other function and meaning.

 


 

In pictorial terms, The Harvesters presents a great sweep of landscape, in the sense that the composition moves the eye from front to back, through the entire painting. But the progression of space is not the linear recession—parallel to the picture plane—which one sees in so many treatments of the landscape. Instead, Bruegel’s space is carved out curve by curve, the mown field in the foreground representing the outermost ring of a space that could be said to constrict around—or emanate from—a pivot point buried in the hazy grey of the distant bay. In this way, the painting could be read as a progression of five or six movements in space: from the mown field, to the unmown, to the path into the village and the deeper space of town, harbor and distant plane.

read the full sketch, as originally published on Painter’s Table

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Posted in: Sketches