Barthelomäus Bruyn's birthdate is provided by medallion with a profile portrait of the painter produced by Friedrich Hagenauer in 1539. Presumably around 1505 Bruyn entered the Kalkar workshop of Jan Joest, who also employed the somewhat older Joos van der Beke van Cleve. According to Cologne guild records, after completing his apprenticeship Bruyn first worked in that city in the workshop of a painter, perhaps the Master of St Severin, before setting himself up independently. Before 1518 he had become a master and married his wife, Agnes (died 1550), with whom he had five children. In 1522 and 1529 he took on his most important commissions for sacred works, namely the still surviving high altars for the collegiate churches in Essen and Xanten. In 1533 he purchased two houses, Alden Gryne and Zum Carbunckel, which had once belonged to the painter Stefan Lochner, in the vicinity of St Alban. Starting in 1547, Bruyn painted the cloister of Cologne's Carmelite convent with his sons Arnt and Bartholomäus. He served on the city council twice, in 1549 and 1553. Although he continued to direct his workshop, he divided his possessions among his children in 1550. In addition to occasional treatments of sacred and allegorical subjects, he primarily owed his fame and prosperity to his numerous paintings of Cologne's patrician class as its most sought-after portraitist. The showy character of his portrait painting is best displayed in his official portraits of mayors, for example the likeness of Johann von Reidt in Berlin's Gemäldegalerie, from 1525, and the portrait of Arnold von Brauweiler, dated 1535, in Cologne's Wallraf-Richartz-Museum. In both his portraits and his religious works, he translated the achievements of Netherlandish painting around 1500 into a Lower Rhine-Cologne idiom. Italian elements appear sporadically; these were doubtless added by other hands, perhaps inspired by graphic reproductions and study of the Antwerp Mannerists. Nonetheless, the corpus of Bruyn's cool and distant-seeming portraits serves as a notable bourgeois contrast to the contemporary Mannerist art favoured by the nobility.