Big Fish Eat Little Fish is a disturbingly quirky 16th-century engraving by artist Peter Bruegel that shows exactly that—big fish eating little fish.
One of 17 Bruegel prints featured in the debut exhibition in the new Center Art Gallery at Calvin College, the work is a commentary on human consumption, says Calvin art history professor Henry Luttikhuizen.
“Everywhere you look, that is what’s happening: you see a giant fish that’s eating a fish that’s eating a fish,” says Luttikhuizen. “[Breugel’s] saying that human beings . . . consume each other.”
Luttikhuizen plans to open the exhibit at 7 p.m. on Oct. 20 with a lecture titled “Laughing and Learning Within a World Turned Upside-Down: An Introduction to the Bruegel Exhibition.” An 8 p.m. reception and tour of the gallery will follow.
The exhibition, “The Humor and Wit of Pieter Bruegel the Elder,” is the first of several events offered by different departments to celebrate the dedication of Calvin’s newly renovated Covenant Fine Arts Center.
Luttikhuizen’s talk, which examines Bruegel’s imitation of Hieronymus Bosch, is the first in a lecture series accompanying the Bruegel exhibition.
The series also features Calvin English professor James Vanden Bosch, philosophy professor Rebecca Konyndyk-DeYoung, and two renowned Bruegel and Bosch scholars. “It’s kind of like liberal arts at its best,” said Luttikhuizen.
The Bruegel exhibition will be in one part of what will be a new 3,800-square-foot exhibition space.
The prints in the show, chosen from a private collection, also include Elck or “Everyone,” The Battle of the Piggybanks and the Strongboxes, and a series that Calvin Director of Exhibitions Joel Zwart believes may be the crowd-pleaser: 14 engravings representing the seven classical virtues (faith, hope, charity, justice, prudence, fortitude, and temperance) and the vices (envy, pride, avarice, anger, gluttony, lust, and sloth).
“This exhibition really sets a high bar for what we want to do with the gallery in the future,” says Zwart.