From 30 September 2023 to 7 January 2024, Het Noordbrabants Museum in 's-Hertogenbosch (the Netherlands) is bringing together around eighty works by five generations of Brueghels, in the exhibition Brueghel: The Family Reunion. Enterprising, innovative and world-famous, the Brueghel family played a pivotal role on the European art scene from around 1550 to 1700. Five generations of Brueghels produced paintings that are admired for their humorous and entertaining compositions, universal messages, and exceptional quality. The subjects range from wedding celebrations, familiar proverbs, and Biblical stories to awe-inspiring landscapes and studies of animals, insects, and flowers. This exhibition reframes one of art history’s most famous families by taking a closer look at connections between the different generations and devoting attention to the Brueghel women for the first time.
The works in Brueghel: The Family Reunion come from renowned collections throughout Europe and North America. Among the highlights are: The Magpie on the Gallows (1568) by Pieter Bruegel the Elder from the Hessisches Landesmuseum in Darmstadt, The Beggars (1568) by Pieter Bruegel the Elder from Musée du Louvre in Paris, Vase of Flowers with Jewel, Coins, and Shells (1606) by Jan Brueghel the Elder from the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana in Milan, Allegory on Painting, (circa 1625 - 1630) by Jan Brueghel the Younger, from the JK Art Foundation, The Netherlands, and The Drunkard Pushed into the Pigsty (1557) by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, from a private collection in New York.
The exhibition and the accompanying catalogue look anew s at the Brueghel family and the period and context in which they worked. Who were the powerful women in this family and what was their role in its fame and success? Among others, we meet Mayken Verhulst, the behind-the-scenes matriarch. One of the most famous artists of her day, she was also an astute businesswoman, teacher, mentor, mother-in-law, and grandmother to the first and second generation of Brueghel artists. We are also introduced to Anna Maria Janssens and Clara Eugenia Brueghel, whose art and matronage networks connected several of the most powerful artistic families in Antwerp. Additionally, new insights are presented about the impact of global trade and colonialism on the family business.
The intimate scale, extraordinary technique, and abundance of miniature details in works by all five generations of Brueghel artists require a different kind of looking. Small-scale artworks, such as the jewel-like paintings on copper by Jan Brueghel the Elder and Jan van Kessel the Elder that are no bigger than a postcard, were originally displayed and viewed in intimate settings, often alongside other small objects such as coins, shells, insects, and jewels. Tiny figures in meticulously painted scenes of peasant labor, celebrations, and the Brabantine landscape by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Pieter Brueghel the Younger, and David Teniers the Younger allow the viewer’s eye to wander endlessly. The exhibition embraces this Brueghelian mode by encouraging a slower pace and offering intimate spaces for close looking and contemplation.
There is a catalogue accompanying the exhibition, with essays by Nadia Groeneveld-Baadj, Curator of Old Masters at Het Noordbrabants Museum, Arthur DiFuria, Professor and Chair of Art History, Savannah College of Art and Design, Georgia, U.S.A., Sarah Moran, Independent Scholar, The Netherlands, Christine Göttler, Professor Emeritus, Universität Bern, Switzerland, and Marlise Rijks, Postdoctoral Researcher, Universiteit Gent and Assistant Professor, Vrije Universiteit Brussels. Published by: WBooks, cost: EUR 29.95