Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Leigh Fermor’s Brueghel

From Patrick Leigh Fermor’s A Time of Gifts: On Foot to Constantinople: From the Hook of Holland to the Middle Danube (1977), the first of three volumes recounting the writer’s 1933–1934 walk across Europe:

The link between journeys and painting, especially this sort of journey, is very close. There was plenty to think about as I made my way through the snow-bound monastic orchards; and it occurred to me, in the silent fields that followed, and for the hundredth time since my landing in Holland, that so far one painter had presided over every stage of this Winterreise. When no buildings were in sight, I was back in the Dark Ages. But the moment a farmhouse or a village impinged, I was in the world of Peter Brueghel. The white flakes falling beside the Waal — or the Rhine or the Neckar or the Danube — and the zigzag gables and the muffled roofs, were all his. The icicles, too, and the trampled snow, the logs piled on the sledges and the peasants stooped double under loads of faggots. When children with woollen hoods and satchels burst out of a village school with a sudden scamper of miniature clogs, I knew in advance that in a moment they would be flapping their arms and blowing on mittened fingers and clearing a space to beat a top in, or galloping down a lane to slide on the nearest brook, with everyone—children, grown-ups, cattle and dogs — moving about in the wake of their own cloudy breath. When the wintry light crept dimly from slits close to the horizon or an orange sun was setting through the branches of a frozen osier-bed, the identity was complete.
The cover of the New York Review Books reprint shows a detail of Hunters in the Snow. Muffled roofs: exactly. Katy Homans is the book’s designer. Here is an article about her NYRB covers.

Related posts
From A Time of Gifts : One word from A Time of Gifts : Leigh Fermor’s eye

comments: 2

Fresca said...

A-ha---this reminds me of a movie you might like, if you haven't seen it already:
Museum Hours (2012)
It features Bruegel's paintings in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.

I loved the film so much, I cried at the end, in the same way one might cry in front of a painting. Shared humanity and all that.

Michael Leddy said...

I have that in the queue (I remember you mentioned it in a post). Okay, now it’s going to the top of the list. Thanks.