My Favourite Painting: Bunny Guinness

The regular panellist on Radio 4’s 'Gardeners’ Question Time' chooses a bucolic scene by a Flemish master.

Bunny Guinness on Spring

This painting has so many elements of landscape design I love: a productive and hugely attractive scene, which has been thoughtfully considered and designed. There are raised beds and all are being worked, but with not one foot trespassing on the soil – just as it should be!

Even in the wintry seasons, the geometrical pattern with topiary embellishment adds a strong dimension. The borrowed landscape is beautifully on view from the garden, as are the livestock, sheep, chickens and pigeons in the dovecote.

No need for stationary statues here; the animals animate the view far more effectively .

Bunny Guinness is a horticulturist and landscape architect and a regular panellist on Radio 4’s Gardeners’ Question Time

John McEwen comments on Brueghel the Younger’s Spring

Pieter Brueghel the Younger was the eldest son of the famous Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1525–69). The first Pieter dropped the ‘h’ from his name, but his artist sons, Pieter and Jan the Elder, re-adopted it.

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Pieter was five when his father died and 14 on the death of his mother. He, brother Jan and sister Marie then lived with their widowed grand-mother, Mayken Verhulst, a respected miniaturist painter and the first teacher of her grandsons.

The family moved to Antwerp, where Pieter may have completed his training under the landscape painter Gillis van Conninxloo (1544–1607), who was a vital link between the Flemish Bruegel and Dutch 17th-century landscape artists, such as Adriaen van de Velde, Jan van Goyen and Salomon van Ruysdael. By 1585, Pieter was listed in the Guild of Saint Luke as an independent master.

Pieter and his workshop produced numerous copies of his father’s art for the rising middle class, the originals almost all being in grand collections. But he also made his own contribution, as here with Spring, one of four panels picturing the seasons.

In this panel, red garments merrily and artfully carry the eye into the distance — merrily in a real sense, because, on the lawn of the bend in the river, the joy of spring has set the locals dancing.

In his review of ‘Bruegel: Defining a Dynasty’ at Bath’s Holburne Museum (Country Life, March 22, 2017), Huon Mallalieu wrote of the younger Pieter: ‘He followed the patriarch most closely, if often more crudely. Crudeness, however, is deliberate, because as well as patriotically recording native culture, as the revolt of the Netherlands against Spanish rule gathered head, such lowly subjects appealed to the sophisticated rich.’

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