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Months of the Year Cycle by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Pieter Bruegel the Elder- The Harvesters

“The Harvesters” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (MET)

“The Harvesters” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder depicts the harvest time, which most commonly occurred within August and September. This painting is one in a series of six works that represent different times of the year.

As in many of Bruegel’s paintings, the focus is on peasants and their work.

Bruegel shows some of the peasants eating while others are harvesting wheat; this was done to illustrate both the production and consumption of food.

The painting shows the activities representative of the 16th-century Belgian rural life during the harvest period. Numerous details have been carefully added to create a sense of distance; these include the workers carrying wheat through the clearing and the ships far away.

“The Harvesters” is one in a series of six works, five of which still survive, that depict different times of the year. The focus of the works is on peasants and their work and does not have the religious themes common in landscape works of the time.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder was one of the first generations of artists to grow up when religious subjects had ceased to be the dominant subject.

The Harvesters

“The Hunters in the Snow” by Pieter Bruegel, the Elder

"The Hunters in the Snow" by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

“The Hunters in the Snow” by Pieter Bruegel, the Elder

“The Hunters in the Snow” by Pieter Bruegel, the Elder, shows a wintry scene in which three hunters are returning from their hunt accompanied by their dogs.

The expedition does not appear to have been successful as the hunters seem to trudge through the snow with their heads bowed. The dogs similarly appear downtrodden and miserable. One man carries the small corpse of a fox, to highlight the scarcity of the hunt.

In front of one of the hunters in the snow are the footprints of a rabbit that has long gone.

The overall impression is one of a cold and overcast winter’s day. The colors are muted whites, browns and greys, the trees are bare of leaves, and wood smoke hangs in the air.

On the left, several adults and a child are preparing food at an inn with an outside fire. The landscape consists of a flat-bottomed valley with a river meandering through it and with jagged peaks visible on the far side.

On the bottom right, the watermill has its wheel frozen. In the midground, figures are ice skating and playing games.

“The Hunters in the Snow” is a 1565 oil-on-wood painting, which is just one of a series of works that depict different times of the year.

As in many of Bruegel’s paintings, the focus of the series is on peasants and their work through the season of the year. The pictures show the activities representative of 16th-century northern European rural life.

Numerous details have been carefully added to create a sense of distance; these include the remote town and mountains.

The Hunters in the Snow

  • Title:               The Hunters in the Snow
  • Alternative:    The Return of the Hunters
  • Dutch:           Jagers in de Sneeuw
  • Artist:            Pieter Bruegel, the Elder
  • Year:              1565
  • Medium:        Oil on wood
  • Dimensions:  117 cm × 162 cm (46 in × ​63 3⁄4 in)
  • Museum:        Kunsthistorisches Museum

“The Hay Harvest” by Pieter Bruegel, the Elder

"The Hay Harvest" by Pieter Bruegel, the Elder

“The Hay Harvest” by Pieter Bruegel, the Elder

“The Hay Harvest” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder was in 1565, represent two months of the year, June and July. This panel belongs to the Months of the Year Cycle series created by Bruegel, illustrating the months of the harvest.

Bringing-in the harvest is not just the grain; the foreground shows vegetables and berries as well. While each painting in the cycle series shows the traditional work of months, Bruegel also featured the changing landscape and its ever-changing appearance.

Human activity is integrated with the life of the cycles of the landscape, which dictate people’s work on the land.

The Hay Harvest

  • Title:               The Hay Harvest
  • Alternative:     Haymaking
  • Dutch:             De hooioogst
  • Artist:              Pieter Bruegel, the Elder
  • Year:               1565
  • Medium:         oil on panel
  • Dimensions:   Height: 114 cm (44.8″); Width: 158 cm (62.2″)
  • Museum:        Lobkowicz Palace at Prague Castle, Prague

“The Return of the Herd” by Pieter Bruegel, the Elder

"The Return of the Herd" by Pieter Bruegel, the Elder

“The Return of the Herd” by Pieter Bruegel, the Elder

“The Return of the Herd” by Pieter Bruegel depicts the autumnal colors of the landscape, and the bare trees connect this particular painting to represent the October and November months.

The herd returning was a motif of autumn, which was introduced into paintings by Bruegel and represented the scenes that he saw on his travels. Once again, Bruegel’s focus is on the landscape with its autumn colors and mood.

The Return of the Herd

  • Title:                The Return of the Herd
  • Artist:               Pieter Bruegel, the Elder
  • Year:               1565
  • Medium:         oil on oak
  • Dimensions:    Height: 117 cm (46″); Width: 159 cm (62.5″)
  • Museum:         Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

“The Gloomy Day” by Pieter Bruegel, the Elder

"The Gloomy Day" by Pieter Bruegel, the Elder

“The Gloomy Day” by Pieter Bruegel, the Elder

“The Gloomy Day” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder depicts the scene set around February and March, portrayed by the bleak atmosphere and leafless trees.

The paper crown around the boy’s head and the eating of waffles are references to the Carnival time before Lent. The sky, the ships crashing against the shoreline, and the children preparing themselves in the foreground suggest that harsh weather is coming.

The Gloomy Day

  • Title:                 The Gloomy Day
  • Artist:               Pieter Bruegel, the Elder
  • Year:                1565
  • Medium:          oil on oak
  • Dimensions:     Height: 118 cm (46.4″); Width: 163 cm (64.1″)
  • Museum:         Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Pieter Bruegel’s Months of the Year Cycle

Months of the Year Cycle consisted of a series of six works, five of which still survive, that depict different times of the year.

The focus of the works is on peasants and their work and does not have the religious themes common in landscape works of the time. Bruegel is famous for his paintings of scenery and nature.

Most of his paintings of the countryside tell a story with a moral message. The surviving months of the year cycle are:

  • “The Gloomy Day” – Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
    • The scene is set around February and March, portrayed by the bleak atmosphere and leafless trees.
  • “The Hay Harvest” – Lobkowicz Palace at Prague Castle, Prague
    • The scene is set around June and July, portraying the hay harvest.
  • “The Hunters in the Snow” – Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
    • This scene is set in the depths of winter during December and January.
  • “The Return of the Herd” – Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
    • The scene is set around October and November with the autumnal colors of the landscape and the bare trees.
  • “The Harvesters” – Metropolitan Museum of Art – MET, New York City
    • The scene is set around August and September, portraying the harvest time.

The sixth painting in the series, which was “High Springtime,” with a scene set around April and May, is lost.

Pieter Bruegel, the Elder

The Harvesters (1565) by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

The Harvesters

The world of Pieter Bruegel the Elder

~~~

“Things used to be that way,
now they’re this way,
and who knows what they will be like later.”

– Belgian Proverbs.

~~~


Photo Credits: 1) Pieter Brueghel the Elder [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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