Pieter Bruegel I was probably born in the Netherlands in Bruegel, Breda or possibly in Antwerp, Bree or Brogel in this period.
Circa 1545 - 1550
During this time, Bruegel is possibly a student of Pieter Coecke van Aelst (1502 -1550) and possibly is trained as a miniature painter by Mayken Verhulst, who was married to Pieter Coecke van Aelst.
Bruegel is registered in the Antwerp Guild of Saint Luke.
Bruegel's earliest dated and preserved drawings come from this year.
He works together with Peeter Baltens (1527/1528 - 1584) on a now-lost altarpiece for the chapel of the glove-maker's guild in the St Rombouts Cathedral in Mechelen. Allegedly, the contribution of Bruegel is limited to the grisailles on the canvases, with the likenesses of the Saints Gummarus and Rombout.
1553 - 1554
Bruegel finds himself in Italy. Possibly he was already there in 1552. The ability to discover first-hand the art from the classical Antiquity and the achievements of the Italian Renaissance were high on the list of desires for the painters from the northern countries. It is possible that the artist was accompanied by the painter Maerten de Vos (1532 - 1603) and the sculptor Jacques Jonghelinck (1530 -1606), the brother of his first patron Nicolaes Jonghelinck.
Bruegel probably travelled via Southern France over the Alps and almost certainly reached Calabria, the tip of Italy's 'boot'. The drawing View of Reggio di Calabria, which dates later (ca. 1560) is, and served as, a pre-study for a print, and must have been made from the sketches that he made there on site.
1553 - 1554
Bruegel is most likely situated in Rome. He has contacts there with the miniaturist painter Giulio Clovio (1498 - 1578).
Some 20 landscape drawings that came about during his Italian journey have been preserved.
Bruegel is back in Antwerp and is working intensively with artist and print publisher Hieronymus Cock (1518 - 1570). Possibly they had already been in contact just before Bruegel's Italian journey.
A preliminary series of prints with landscapes is commercialised in Antwerp.
1555 - 1565
Cock launches the so-called 'grand landscapes', a monumental series of twelve mountain landscapes (a combination of etching and engraving), of which two are possibly not after Bruegel's design. Bruegel designs the series (with View of the Tiber near Tivoli, amongst others) and Joannes and Lucas van Doetecum provide for the graphics. At this moment, the artist still signs his work with 'brueghel'. Somewhat later he shall sign with 'bruegel'. The series confirms Bruegel as a print designer and landscape artist.
Bruegel makes the masterly drawing The Big Fish Eat Little Fish. The time-honoured saying was engraved by Pieter van der Heyden (ca. 1530 - after 1572) in 1557 and published by Hieronymus Cock.
1556 - 1558
The artist draws the seven preparatory drawings for the series of prints, The Seven Deadly Sins. Subsequently, the drawings are engraved by Pieter van der Heyden. The series is one of the axes of the surviving oeuvre of Bruegel. A counterpart to the series is created by the somewhat younger series, The Seven Virtues (1559 - 1560). The series is also made in conjunction with The Last Judgement(drawing and engraving) from 1558.
Bruegel's earliest dated and preserved paintings originate in this year.
Bruegel draws the allegoryElck, a complex and many-layered commentary on the fruitless quest of humanity at the religious, intellectual and material level. Probably in the same year, Pieter van der Heyden engraves the composition that is published by Hieronymus Cock.
In this year as well the drawing The Alchemistcomes about, which is engraved by Philips Galle (1537 - 1612) for Hieronymus Cock. (Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Museen, Berlin)
Bruegel paints Twelve Proverbs, consisting of twelve boards that later are mounted upon panels. (Museum Mayer van den Bergh, Antwerp)
Bruegel creates the painting The Proverbs. (Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen, Berlin)
1559 - 1560
The series of The Seven Virtues comes from this period. (Engraved by Philips Galle, published by Hieronymus Cock)
Pieter Bruegel marries Mayken Coecke in the Brussels's Church of our Lady of the Chapel (Kapellekerk). She is the daughter of his master teacher Pieter Coecke van Aelst.
1563 - 1568
From this period and up until his death in 1568, there are still 29 surviving paintings.
Pieter Brueghel the Younger (1564 - 1638) is born.
The panel with The Adoration of the Kings from the collection of the National Gallery (London) is completed in this year. Noteworthy for this period are the monumental figures and the low point of perspective, by which the viewer is drawn into the painting.
In 1564, Bruegel paints Christ Carrying the Cross (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna). It involves the second largest surviving painting and contains more than 150 figures. Bruegel's first patron, Nicolaes Jonghelinck, had it in his possession in 1566.
The Twelve Months (series of probably six panels, of which five had survived) are produced. The panels are often viewed as the highpoint in Bruegel's oeuvre. The Antwerp merchant and art collector Nicolaes Jonghelinck orders the series. Haymaking is found in the Collection Roudnice Lobkowicz in Nelahozeves (Czech Republic). The Harvesters makes up a part of the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The three other panels, The Return of the Herd, Hunters in the Snow and The Gloomy Day belong to the collection of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.
Marie, the daughter of Pieter Bruegel the Elder and Mayken Coecke, is born.
Ludovico Guicciardini (1521 - 1589) calls Bruegel a 'second Hieronymus Bosch' in his book, Descrittione di tutti i Paesi Bassi, altrimenti detti Germania inferiore.
Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568 - 1625) is born. The Peasant and the Birdnester is made (Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum). Artists' biographer Giorgio Vasari (1511 - 1574) praises Bruegel in his Le Vite de' più eccellenti pittori, scultori e architettori.
Pieter Bruegel dies in Brussels. His son, Jan Brueghel the Elder creates a commemorative plaque for the Kapellekerk, where his father was interred, which is embellished by a painting by Peter Paul Rubens (1577 - 1640). Later, the painting (The Delivery of the Keys to Peter) is sold and replaced by a copy.
Abraham Ortelius (1527 - 1598) composes an ode to the attention of the deceased painter in his Liber Amicorum. He calls Bruegel the most accomplished painter of his time.
Bruegel's wife Mayken Coecke dies.
David Teniers II (1610 - 1690) renews the commemorative stone for Pieter Bruegel the Elder. The memorial stone is still to be found in the Kapellekerk in Brussels.