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Showing 1-9 of 9 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 11 reviews
on October 8, 2010
Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1525-1569, is one of the most resourceful and complex painters from the area known as Flanders, now Belgium. This book has an illustration of most all of the known painting of Bruegel as well as some drawings and prints. The text is informative, historic, and readable. I hate texts in art books that are so esoteric that no one can read them. That is not the case here since the text fully expands upon the illustrations with a maximum focus on the life of Bruegels, his historic political and socio-economic times, and his place in art history. He was a master of the crowd scene, as evidenced by his painting "The Sermon of St. John the Baptist" where the order of the crowd is visually maintained by having most of the crowd clothed in black and their round fleshy heads emerge from this sea of black. The history of Spanish suppression of the Netherlands plays a role in his art and the authors point out that the mysterious man in black that appears in several paintings may be the dreaded Duke of Alba that Spanish king Phillip sent to the lowlands to suppress any religious or political uprising. It is the contrast of black and white that Bruegels uses to maximum effect in many of his paintings. The painting "Massacre of the Innocents" is visually organized in such a way that multiple actions occur throughout the painting as the troops of Herod kill the first born boys of Bethlehem, but the isolation of groups of figures, surrounded by the white snow, is a wonderful visual organizing technique that allows scrutiny of all the horrors and appreciation for the aggregate whole of the painting. The two paintings of the Tower of Babel are included. These are incredible, almost archetypal paintings, of structures in various degrees of completion or ruin. They are visually complex and stunning and the reproductions, though small, are precise. The painting of "Children's Games" is charming and the painting "Netherlandish Proverbs" includes a two page chart identifying 118 different proverbs pictured in the painting. These are charming but were paintings intended to please the viewer. It is some of the darker works that reveals some of Bruegel's genius and mastery. These include "The Fall of the Rebel Angels" where the angels morph into monstrosities as they fall into hell. The painting "Dule Griet (Mad Meg)" is complex nightmare held together by having a strong central female figure striding across the center of the campus surrounded by miniature demons. I wish the reproductions of the masterpiece "The Triumph of Death" had been larger since this painting is such an iconic work, an important chapter in art history. Bruegel's depth is illustrated in the manner in which he can portray complete nightmare in "The Triumph of Death" and yet produce optimistic realistic life loving reflections of everyday existence in such wonderful glowing works as "The Corn Harvest" and "Haymaking". The robust lively life portrayed in wedding scenes and dances is contrasted with a somber masterpiece "The Parable of the Blind" with its realistic and disturbing images of blind men following blind men into a ditch. Bruegel's paintings are haunting. They are images of such strength that they remain with a viewer long after the pages of the book are shut. This edition of his complete paintings is small but comprehensive. It is full of well reproduced images and the price is totally reasonable considering the quality of the images.
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on March 21, 2015
Any review of this book would have to start out by mentioning that it is part of Taschen Publisher’s “Basic Art” series. As such, it is relatively short at only 96 pages. Of these pages only, very roughly, a third of consist of text. Hence if one is looking for a scholarly tome on the subject this is not the book to purchase. The real question to ask is how well does it do for the limits imposed by this format? The answer is very well.

The book provides more than just a brief biography of the man and his paintings (parents, where he was born, where resided, who commissioned his major works, etc.). Thanks to the fact that the two authors are scholars (i.e., Professors) they provide a very interesting analysis of Bruegel’s major works. Not only is what is painted, literally, is discussed and analyzed but so is the allegorical meaning of the works in terms of their historical time as well as minor nuances that are quite important in interpreting their meanings. For example, the authors point out how many common maxims of Bruegel’s time and area of residence (i.e., Spanish Netherlands which today consists of the areas, very roughly, of the Netherlands and Holland) are referred to implicitly in the paintings. For example, one of his paintings illustrates over 100 of these common maxims. The authors present a one page schematic showing this.

The authors also point out how many of his paintings have allegorical historical meanings. For example the Duke of Alba, the man Spain sent to lead the vicious counter reformation in the Spanish Netherlands (where Bruegel resided), is subtlety included in an implicit and subtle fashion as a black knight (he wore black armor) in paintings set in ancient times where Christians are being persecuted.

The book also discusses Bruegel’s particular “style” of painting and how it differed from his contemporaries. This is not only in terms of technique (i.e., use of bright colors) but also topics chosen. For example common folk were presented in a non-mocking fashion, something that was common, at the time, only among painters in the Spanish Netherlands. In the rest of Europe peasants and common persons were usually presented only as fools, sinners, degenerates or in other non-praiseworthy manners.

Lastly, the paintings are illustrated in beautiful colors and plates. These by no means can compete with fine museum quality books (which usually sell at many times of this Taschen volume) but are, by far, the best this reviewer has ever seen in art books in the $10 range.

All and all a very good book on Bruegel and his art (and all 45 of Bruegel’s authenticated paintings) for anyone interesting in getting up to speed in about an hour and a half of reading time. Definitely very well worth much more than the approximately $10 cost.
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on April 16, 2017
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on March 27, 2011
This is a superb little book illustrating most of Pieter Breughel's famous paintings. The text is concise and informative. It even has an explanation for the 118 expressions in Netherlandish Proverbs...superb. However, it does not contain illustrations and text of such works as: Village Scene with Dance around the May Pole, The Egg Dance, Preparation of the Flower Beds, The Return of the Fair, Peasant Brawl, The Seven Acts of Charity, The Wedding Procession, The Organ Grinder, and Peasant's Head, to name but a few. Still, for that price, it comes highly recommended.
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on December 20, 2012
Informative reading and interesting to look at, The small format restrict some of the details of Bruegel's intricate artwork. But for the price and the amount of photos ( and some excellent details ) it's a treasure of a handi-referednce book. Highly recommend
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on January 25, 2014
Loved this book as it was concise and yet interesting for art teachers and older students.
I swa lots of his painting last year and the book filled in all the deatils.
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on July 19, 2013
The writers of the book aimed at grade-school level, and repeated themselves very often. The book itself was O.K., but I'm disappointed that Taschen books have gone down in size and up in price. An older Bosch book was wonderful. Not this one.
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on November 16, 2014
awesome quality
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on November 2, 2008
Book arrived in perfect shape and in a timely manner. It was well described but it surpassed our expections. Highly recommend.
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