Pieter Bruegel possesses a great talent for the painting and drawing of landscapes. The genre comes to light in the Southern Netherlands and is prepared by the so-called Flemish Primitives in the fifteenth century. It was Joachim Patinir (ca. 1475/80 - 1524) who first specialised in the genre. A substantial difference with Bruegel's landscapes is that the latter drew or painted much more natural-looking vistas. Bruegel does not wish to encompass the whole world so to speak such as in Patinir's so-called world landscapes. He also offered, as opposed to Patinir, the religious narratives and concentrated on the natural forms of trees, meandering rivers and whimsical, though naturally looking mountain formations.
Karel van Mander writes: “On his journeys Brueghel did many views from nature so that it was said of him, when he travelled through the Alps, that he had swallowed all the mountains and rocks and spat them out again, after his return, onto his canvases and panels […]” (Schilder-boeck, 1604)
From the period 1553 - 1554, when Bruegel is staying in Italy, some twenty landscape drawings are preserved. In a few mountain landscapes he evokes the magnitude of the Alps, in which the minuteness of man and animal stand out. Bruegel appealed to his visual impressions and (probable) sketches, but draws the landscapes in the studio.
Between circa 1555 and 1556 a twelve-part series of prints originates that is known as The Large Landscapes. The panoramic series in large format is published by Hieronymus Cock in Antwerp. The series, with ten mountainous landscapes, exercised significant influence on the genre of landscape in the Netherlands. A high angle, enormous trees on the side, rivers that meander diagonally to the horizon and strategically placed travellers create Bruegel's depth.
With his series of paintings, The Twelve Months (1565), Bruegel captures the atmosphere and the character of the seasons. With a great deal of feeling and the steady brush he records humanity, its actions and the world around it. The decor of this tour de force is the changing landscape. The beauty places it in the multiplicity of motifs, forms and colours: from glowing cornfields to snow-covered mountaintops or the approaching storm that casts a dark veil over the land.