Bruegel takes to the skies as Brussels Airlines launches newest plane


As Flanders marks the 450th anniversary of the artist’s death, his work gets a new lease of life in the airline’s Belgian Icons series of illustrated planes

Flying billboard

Brussels Airlines has unveiled the latest member of its fleet: an Airbus 320 inspired by the work of Pieter Bruegel. The plane is part of the Belgian Icon series, a collection of aircraft honouring local heroes that already includes Tintin, Magritte, the national football team, Tomorrowland music festival and the Smurfs.

Contemporary Flemish artists Jos De Gruyter and Harald Thys have created the artwork inspired by Bruegel that covers the plane. Though 450 years separate De Gruyter and Thys from Bruegel, they have a similar style in the way they depict places, people, landscapes and habits, and they too draw inspiration from their homeland.

For their design, they have taken elements from some of Bruegel’s best-known works – “The Fight Between Carnival and Lent”, “Hunters in the Snow”, “The Harvest” and “The Peasant Dance” – and used them to create new compositions. The detailed artwork on the interior and exterior of the 37-metre plane took 19 days to paint by hand.

“Flemish Masters such as Pieter Bruegel still speak to the imagination,” said Flanders’ tourism minister, Ben Weyts. “They are cultural billboards that can encourage a wide audience to travel to the birthplace of so much fantastic art. Anyone who wants to immerse themselves in the world of Bruegel, Rubens or Van Eyck should really visit Flanders.”

Flying artwork

The plane, part of a year of celebrations of Bruegel’s work on the 450th anniversary of his death, taking place throughout Brussels and Flanders, is a collaboration between Brussels Airlines, Tourism Flanders and Brussels art centre Bozar. Its first flight will be on 10 May, when it takes De Gruyter and Thys to Venice, where they are representing Belgium at the Biennale arts festival. It will then be part of the airline’s Europe and Middle East network for the next five years.

“Brussels Airlines is an ambassador for Belgium,” said airline CEO Christina Foerster at the unveiling this week. “This sixth iconic aeroplane shows Belgium’s rich art history and we are very proud to have created this beautiful flying artwork with the support of Tourism Flanders and the artistic expertise of Bozar.”