Sunday, 28 October 2012

Breugal "The Return of the Herd" (Autumn Landscape #12)

Pieter Breughal the Elder (1525-1569) is one of the great painters of landscapes in different seasons that are also located within the timeline of annual tasks of the ordinary man.  This is his painting of an autumn landscape - and the return of the herd.

The Return of the Herd (Autumn) / De Terugkeer van de kudde (najaar) (1565) 
by Pieter Bruegel the Elder 
oil on panel, 117 x 159 cm
Gallery: Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria

What's fascinating about this landscape scene is that it involve mountains. Those who know the Low Countries will appreciate that mountains are not the normal subject matter of a Flemish painter working at home!  The museum where now owns this painting has an explanation.
Bruegel introduced to the art of painting the autumn motif of the returning herd, a subject untypical for the Netherlands. To achieve this, he would have been able to draw on impressions gained during his travels through Switzerland. Driving the cattle down from the Alpine pastures, a key event in every peasant's year, is made into the title scene. Yet the main subject is the landscape which the artist has raised to the sublime in its tonal colouring and mood.
The Return of the Herd (Autumn) / De Terugkeer van de kudde (najaar)
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria
The name for the return of the cattle from upland pastures to the valleys is the transhumance. (see Transhumance and Transhumance in the Alps).  The same word is used for the migration in the other direction in the springtime.

This painting is also a very good example of why you should NOT always believe everything you read on Wikipedia (note the comment about the direction of the cattle which is complete twaddle!)

About one third of Bruegel's surviving paintings are located in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria.

The painting is classified as being part of the Northern Renaissance.

Links: Winter Landscape - Adoration of the Magi by Pieter Bruegel

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