Posts Tagged ‘Pieter Brueghel the Elder’

One of my favorite paintings is the one above, a depiction of the biblical Tower of Babel painted by Pieter Brueghel the Elder, the Flemish painter around 1563. It is probably the image that jumps to mind for many folks when they think about that tower. It is an iconic image.

But it also spurred many generations of other artists to render their own vision of how they thought the tower may have appeared. I am fascinated by the hundreds of different, yet in many ways similar, ways in which the Tower of Babel has been depicted and have scanned over numerous iterations.

All are captivating to me, filled with all sorts of compositional possibilities that always seem to have me on the verge of painting my own tower. I may have already attempted and haven’t even realized it, like the characters in Close Encounters of the Third Kind who are compelled to by their visions of Devil’s Tower to recreate that landmark in whatever is at hand, such as the mashed potatoes in the case of the Richard Dreyfuss character.

Here are just a handful of other paintings of the Tower of Babel along with a short video I came across that contains a few more.

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Ivan Generalic- River Landscape 1964I came across the work of the late Croatian painter Ivan Generalic (1914-1992) recently.  I had never heard of him but was instantly pulled in by his easily palatable work. It was colorful and had simple forms that fit the eye easily.  Muscular bare trees under beautifully graded skies of rich color.  Thick peasants and cows among simple square houses.  Golden fields with each stalk of grain painted individually.  It reminded me both of the gorgeous flora of Henri Rousseau’s paintings and the peasant scenes of Brueghel but still spoke in its own voice.  Simple yet not.

Ivan Generalic- Village 1954Generalic was considered a Naive Painter.  I never quite know what to make when I hear that term, whether it is disparaging or simply describing the form.  By definition, much of my own work is naive although I seldom refer to it in that way.  By naive,  I mean that I often disregard many of the elements of classical realism such as true perspective or the fading of color and detail over distance.  Plus I often leave out shadows and may have several light sources within a picture.  But it was never studied.  To me  it is simply painting as I see things in my mind, translating them on a surface in a way that makes sense.  Maybe that is why I am drawn to the work of people like Ivan Generalic who seem to make this translation seem so simple and elegant..

One of the ways I judge work of other painters now is to pull up a Google Images page of their work.  You can get a real sense of their work in this quick overview, seeing all of the paintings together playing off of each other.  It gives you a core feel  for it, what it was really about.  This definitely worked for Generalic, as you can see below.  There’s is a real sense of fullness and purpose in the work.  Certainty.

Ivan Generalic- Google Images Page

We don’t hear much about Croatian painters like Generalic here or even many Naive painters in general, which is our loss.  I find his work beautiful and intriguing and am glad to have stumbled across it.

Ivan Generalic -Cows in a Landscape 1957 Ivan Generalic-  Deer in the Forest 1956

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Pieter Bruegel- Tower of BabelI am totally in awe of the work of Pieter Brueghel the Elder, the patriarch of the great Flemish family of painters.  There are so many paintings of his that I could show that would be equal to those I chose for this post but I find these particular pieces striking.  There is great richness and depth as well as a tremendous warmth in his colors.  I always feel enveloped in his paintings as though they wrap around me like a blanket, particularly his peasant pieces.brueghel_hunters in the snow

This piece above  depicting the Tower of Babel has always excited my imagination beyond the actual biblical story.  I’m always reminded of the Gormenghast Trilogy from Mervyn Peake when I see this image and wonder if it had any influence when he was formulating the story for his novels.  The scale of the building and the way it dominates the composition is breathtaking.
The Fall of the Rebel Angels

His earlier allegorical works seem to have been heavily influenced by Hieronymous Bosch and have incredible energy.  He had an ability to take multitudes of forms and scenarios and bring them together in a way that had great rhythm, lending almost an abstract quality to the overall scene.  I find these paintings quite beautiful despite their sometimes jolting imagery.Pieter_Brueghel_The_Triumpf_of_Death

I could look at his work for hours and even writing this short post is taking a long time because I just want to stop and look at his work.  I find it truly inspiring and wonder how it will find its way into my own work someday.  Somehow.  Maybe…brueghel fall of icarus

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