We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
You go to the home of Strauss, Beethoven, Mozart, and Haydn, and so you naturally want to hear some of their music there. That was good.
However, what was most mind-boggling for me (and my son) was the Breughel collection at the Kunst Historische Museum:
It was a long, jet-lagged and befuddled but scenic trek to get there on our first day after a sleepless plane ride, but our Breughel mission was worth it to get close to those pictures. They have a third of the existing Breughels. They are quite large paintings with many small details, and no reproductions can do them justice. Some are oil on board, and some are tempera. You have to go and see with your own eyes. They have comfy leather sofas to sit on, too.
Pictures tell stories. If they don't, they are just "design." That's my opinion, anyway. People sure do love stories, especially when well-designed. I do not mean to disparage design: Picasso was a master of design. Matisse too, and the genius cave painters of Lascaux.
Hunters in the Snow (1565), his haunting hunting masterpiece:
Peasant Wedding, another masterpiece:
A good summary of Breughel's career here. It's interesting to me that the wealthy churchmen and princes of Austria found this Flemish painter's work so collectible. I guess they just had good taste in art.
Peasant Wedding is used in schizophrenia research, to get people talking about the details and measuring the differences in speech between the schizophrenics and the controls. If you look closely, you can see why it's a good choice for that.
Assistant Village Idiot
I suspect some the cave paintings at Lascaux are telling stories quite similar to "Hunters in the Snow" and we do not recognize them due to our great separation from that life and time.
Pictures tell stories. If they don't, they are just "design."
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Design is what helps pictures tell stories. Good design guides the eye and establishes relationships.
The 2 pictures you show here are often used in art classes to teach design - both of them use strong diagonal layouts to reinforce perspective and organize otherwise chaotic scenes.
So there is no dichotomy between telling stories and design.
Northern European renaissance artists achieved realism with closely observed detail that hid their sloppy perspective and layout. One of the things that elevates Breughel above them is his masterful use of design and perspective - even though he does not ape the mathematical stage perspective of the Italian renaissance.
Top picture - make this x:
From the hounds in the lower left, along the left sides of the frozen ponds, to the distant mountain. Then from the slanting roof on the left through the hunters' lances and the foreground snowdrift.
See how the trees fall into the pattern, reinforcing the sense of depth? See how the 2 hawks limn another perspective line to the right-hand mountain?
The prideful bride is marked by the green cloth. See how your eye is guided from the foreground servant in blue, through the guest taking the pie, right to her? See how the perspective and sight lines highlight the bagpiper looking yearningly at the pies? How the back walls just happens to divide the picture into 4 even pieces?
This is why the burghers collected Breugel - these pictures only look rustic. And it's like nothing the Italians of the time were doing - more like the atmospheric perspective of a Japanese scroll.