Newspapers and Magazines - Page 1
‘Casting a Black Mountain Canvas’Country Quest, June ’93
‘Finding Beauty on my Doorstep’ Ninnau (An American newspaper for Welsh expatriates,) March ’95
‘Back to Bruegel’
The Bulletin (An English language magazine for Brussels,) February ’97
Peter Bruegel’s depictions of peasant life and Arcadian landscapes are recognised the world over, but little trace remains of the man behind the work. Popular myth suggests that he came from peasant stock. Yet he mixed freely with the dons and scientists of Antwerp and Brussels and had many bourgeois friends: improbable for someone from such a humble background. While his birth date is unknown, in 1551 he became a Master of St Luke’s Guild in Antwerp, where he worked for an engraver. In 1553 he visited Italy and the sketches he made of the Alps and the Dolomites are believed to have inspired the mountains in ‘Hunters in the Snow’ and ‘The Dark Day.’ Last year, armed with a travel grant from the Welsh Arts Council, I visited Brussels to study Bruegel. I began by making drawings and paintings of number 132 Rue Haute, where he lived towards the end of his life and the Place de la Chapelle, where he is buried. With its gabled roof and symmetrical window arrangements, the house has hardly changed since Bruegel’s time. It was recently restored and traces of oil paint were found between the floorboards. Privately owned, the house can be seen by appointment.
Bruegel’s tomb is a modest affair: a small memorial tablet for himself and his wife Maria in a side chapel of the Eglise de la Chapelle. Above the plaque is a copy of Ruben’s painting of St Peter, commissioned by Bruegel’s son to commemorate his father. I painted the church from the back, positioned between a florist’s barrow and a hotdog stand. Here I had the convivial company of the flower seller, who gave a single bloom to every attractive woman who passed by and spent as much time drinking with his friends in the bar, as he did selling flowers. Curious passers-by made many comments on the painting, asking why I hadn’t painted the church from the front, and didn’t I think that the ugly lampstand and clock spoilt the picture? As it happened, no I didn’t.