Hunters’ Return

“Hunters’ Return,” oil on linen panel, 16×20

This painting is an homage to one of my favorite painters of the Northern Renaissance period, Pieter Bruegel the Elder. When I was young and studying art history at the university, this was the period of art I was most fascinated with. Sure, I loved the Italian Renaissance as well, but there was something so very appealing about the color and the point of view Bruegel took I tried to deconstruct it.

The Flemish had a way of breaking up space that reminds one of a proscenium theater. There’s the backdrop, the middle ground, and the foreground, and the lines of the middle ground are what take the viewer’s eye and draw us in.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder was a renowned Flemish painter and printmaker of the 16th century. Born around 1525, he is often referred to as the “Peasant Bruegel” due to his fascination with depicting scenes of rural life and everyday activities. Bruegel’s works stood out for their meticulous attention to detail, vibrant colors, and complex compositions that captured the essence of Flemish culture during the Renaissance.

Bruegel’s paintings were characterized by their vast landscapes and a multitude of small, intricate figures engaged in various activities. His most famous works include “The Tower of Babel,” “The Hunters in the Snow,” and “The Peasant Wedding.” These pieces showcased his ability to blend naturalistic elements with allegorical and moral themes, reflecting the social and political concerns of his time. His compositions often explored the human condition, capturing the struggles, joys, and follies of everyday life.

Despite his popularity and influence, Bruegel’s life remains somewhat mysterious, with few records available. He died in 1569, leaving behind a legacy that has shaped the development of Flemish art. His distinctive style and masterful storytelling continue to inspire artists and art enthusiasts to this day, making Pieter Bruegel the Elder one of the most celebrated painters of the Northern Renaissance.

“Hunters in the Snow” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

There are things I have altered to make the idea of hunters returning into a Northern New Mexican image is to make the village in the distance a simple scattering of adobe dwellings. Instead of winter, it is late autumn. The colors are warm and there is no snow on the ground. The ovens are drying chicos, not bread. There are no skaters. There are no ponds.

We have a neighbor who is a guide on his own private land to affluent weekend hunters during the autumnal season. I’m watching them begin to prepare their luxury trailers for the upcoming season. The ridiculousness of traveling 1000s of miles to shoot a cougar someone else has treed for you is not lost on anyone, but I admire these wiley local men for being able to figure out what drives people to hunt even when folks don’t really have to. I admire them for knowing about the ways of nature.

When I was in high school, I used to burn this composition into wooden oven shovels and wood cutting boards and give them away as gifts. That’s why this composition came easily to me. I will probably paint it again and again.