After six years and an unfortunate COVID hiatus, the exceptionally talented caricaturist Sam McNair is releasing his first book, After Bruegel.
After Bruegel is a collection of illustrations that have been brewing for the last six years that re-imagine the diabolic images of the 16th century Dutch Master – Pieter Bruegel the Elder – in a viscerally contemporary way.
Bruegel lived in Antwerp in the mid-1500s, his unique reflecting the society in which he inhabited in the guise of the seven deadly sins. Sloth, for example, is personified as a shabbily dressed woman demonstratively sleeping away time while resting her weight on the back of an ass. In After Bruegel, the woman is a sloth atop an ass, a smartphone in paw… and the viewer is challenged to find a collection of idioms in each sin, such as resting on your laurels, for example, passing the buck, couch potato, lazy Susan, beer crime and more. In Envy, these formulate as the green-eyed monster, playing second fiddle and keeping up with the Jones’.
Described as a ‘picture book time-capsule reflecting the age in which we live’, the illustrations in After Bruegel makes reference to contemporary geopolitical events, pop culture and personalities, including COVID-19, the Black Lives Matter movement, Brexit, Daesh, slave wages, Disney, Trump, Putin, Xingping, Johnson, Murdoch and many, many more.
Depicting Twitter logos, Trump as a many-tentacled thing, messenger notification symbols and smartphones held to faces like mirrors, the book is also a kind of eye-spy excursion akin to Where’s Wally. It’s for an older audience, but McNair imagines anyone who trawled through Hanford’s multi-layered illustrations in search of Wally’s red and white stripes will be as intrigued by After Bruegel.
Our take? McNair’s first book is a glorious representation of the deadly sins of our time, as well as a clever pastiche of a Flemish master and a find-your-own adventure. Wrapped in a soft palette that lures you in with expectations of Renaissance innocence, After Bruegel is a riotus melee of political, social and cultural commentary and well worth the six year wait…