Pieter Bruegel the Elder - The Hunters in the Snow

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The Hunters in the Snow
Pieter Bruegel the Elder (Flemish, ca.1525-1569)
Oil on panel, 117x162 cm. (46 in × 63¾ in.)
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Founder of a prominent family of artists, Pieter Brueghel (or Bruegel) the Elder is one of the first masters of Flemish painting, a talent often compared to Hieronymus Bosch, though Bosch’s moralizing paranoia is replaced by Bruegel’s ironic social criticism and unconcealed love for country life. Like Patinir, Bruegel is not a “pure” landscape painter, as his landscapes are always backgrounds of works of religious or genre themes. His most important landscapes are those displayed in a series of six paintings depicting different seasons, from which "Hunters in the Snow " is the best known example.

This painting is one of the first winter landscapes in the history of Western painting. The work captures the moment in which three hunters, accompanied by their dogs, return to their village after a hunting expedition. Bruegel has “placed” the viewer near the tired hunters, whose vision of the landscape would be very similar to ours.

The composition is a complex interplay of diagonal and horizontal lines. The foreground is dominated by diagonal lines, standing out the main diagonal marked by the base of the trees and figures of the hunters and their dogs, which continues to the foreground of the composition. An almost opposite diagonal starts at the lower right corner and goes to the far left of the painting. However, the horizontal lines of the frozen canals predominates in the background of the painting, giving the landscape a frozen placidity.

Cold colors –white and blue- dominate the painting. The dark figures of the hunters and dogs create a huge contrast with the white of the snow, a feeling enhanced by the total absence of shadows. "Hunters in the Snow " is an absolute masterpiece that influenced later painters like Hendrick Avercamp.

G. Fernández -

Brueghel - The Hunters in the Snow

Detail of the landscape in the background

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