Jan, as the youngest son, did not inherit the tracing-paper templates from the famous father of Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Although in his youth he tried to copy his father, apparently at the suggestion of his elder brother Pieter Bruegel the Younger in his workshop.
But already from these copies, we can say that this is an artist of a completely different kind.
He created a smaller bird trap. But despite this, he makes the branches of the trees even more realistic. He was better able to convey the atmosphere of a cold day. Due to the colors that are more natural for a cloudy day. He also has a better aerial perspective and a more pronounced illusion of depth.
From the very beginning Jan Bruegel the Younger declared himself as an artist with an individual style. He did not want to be just a copyist of his father’s work, like his older brother Pieter Bruegel the Younger. He wanted to be a great artist. And in general he did it.
He strove to work for the aristocracy, so that his paintings were recognized by the chosen connoisseurs of art. He was friends with Rubens. And even created a joint painting with him. In general, it is clear from it what Rubens portrayed, and what Jan Bruegel the Elder himself.
Jan had access to aristocratic zoos. It was there that he saw many animals. And that is why they are drawn so subtly and believably.
Why are there so many monkeys? An ancient Greek saying has come down to us that art is the monkey of nature. That is why Dutch and Flemish artists were so fond of depicting monkeys. Including because with their help it is easy to show the sins of people. So to speak, indirectly.
So in his work, Jan Bruegel the Elder conveys immoderation in food, idleness and fussiness of people through the image of a monkey.
The master was also a frequent visitor to the greenhouses of his customers. He could observe how different plants bloom at different times of the year and “collect” them into one bouquet. And he wrote them so gracefully and realistically that he became famous. And at the same time he got his nickname-prefix to the name “Velvet” or “Flower”.
Yes, he managed to create a trend, literally embodying the words of Erasmus of Rotterdam about the double pleasure of contemplating a painted flower. According to him, admiration for the wisdom of nature is combined in this case with admiration for the artist’s skill. Yes, in the case of Jan Bruegel the Elder, it’s straight to the point.
His bouquets were so incredible that other artists picked up the trend. And until now, Dutch painting is sometimes associated with just such still lifes.
Jan Bruegel the Elder made a significant contribution to the development of Dutch and Flemish painting. Along with his brother Pieter Bruegel the Younger (Hell Bruegel). Both are the sons of the great Pieter Bruegel the Elder (Peasant Bruegel).
All three laid the incredible foundation on which several generations of artists would later work. To finally understand the peculiarities of their work, I recommend reading the following articles:
Paintings by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. The most famous masterpieces of the master
Pieter Bruegel the Younger. Copyist or great artist?
You can also read about Dutch artists: about the generation of those who studied with the incredible Brueghel family:
Dutch artists. 8 masters of the Golden Age of the Netherlands
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PS. Main illustration: Peter Paul Rubens. Portrait of Jan Brueghel the Elder and his family (detail). 1613. Cortold Art School, University of London. Musei-Mira.com