Bruegel, or the Workshop of Dreams

Claude-Henri Rocquet, Author, Nora Scott, Translator University of Chicago Press $24.95 (220p) ISBN 978-0-226-72342-6
The earthy peasant scenes and nightmarish visions of the netherworld painted by Pieter Brueghel the Elder (ca. 1525-1569) seem to cry out for a sociopolitical reading. But Parisian art historian Rocquet's biography, an ``imaginative portrait,'' suffers from a central impediment: almost nothing is known about Brueghel's life. Hardcore fans of the Flemish artist may enjoy this highly speculative profile, which builds on the known facts with invented conversations, interior monologues and suppositions. We follow the painter as he wanders from town to town, attending fairs and banquets, observing windmills, hangings and the oppression of the Low Countries by King Philip II of Spain. We watch Brueghel move in 1563 from the bustling port of Antwerp to verdant Brussels, where he lives on a country lane and paints in a workshop attic. And, as Brueghel creates a surreal triptych, the reader imaginatively descends with him ``into that Babylon of caverns and depths that we all are.'' (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 11/04/1991
Release date: 11/01/1991
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