Winter landscapes

For many of you, the sight of snow is a curse, for others it is a sight of wonderment. Maybe the falling of snow, like Christmas presents, is just a meaningful event for children. Many believe snow should only be enjoyed if seen in a photograph or postcard and not deep on the ground in front of one’s house or in one’s driveway. For all you snow-sufferers, let me offer you some works of art which highlight the beauty of snow depicted by different artists, some of whom may be better known for other artistic genres.  Artists love to see the trees in winter, devoid of their foliage, leaving just exposed skeletons. Such winter scenes have their own exquisiteness.

Sunset scenery with snow-covered road and a small farmhouse by Harald Julius Niels Pryn

Sunset Scenery with snow-covered road and a small Farmhouse was one of many paintings featuring wintery conditions by the Danish artist Harald Julius Niels Pryn. Pryn was born on April 11th, 1891 in Frederiksberg, Denmark and lived and worked in Bagsværd, a northern suburb of Copenhagen. He was a self-taught artist and eventually developed the skill to be considered one of the great landscape artists of his time. In his own country he was a well-known Danish landscape painter. His specialty and main subjects were light-filled winter landscapes.  Look at the many colours he used to depict the snow.

Winter Caravan on the Road by Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky

Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky, but baptized as Hovhannes Aivazian, was born in July 1817 into an Armenian family in the Black Sea port of Feodosia in Crimea and spent most of his life there. He was a Russian Romantic painter and although this work, Winter Caravan on the Road, is a winter landscape, he is deemed to be one of the greatest masters of marine art with the vast majority of his works being seascapes. He also often depicted battle scenes, Armenian themes, and portraiture. He was educated at the Imperial Academy of Arts in Saint Petersburg, Aivazovsky travelled to Europe and lived briefly in Italy during the early 1840s. He then returned to Russia and was appointed the main painter of the Russian Navy. He was sponsored by the state and was well-regarded during his lifetime. The saying “worthy of Aivazovsky’s brush”, popularized by Anton Chekhov, was used in Russia for describing something lovely.  It is the haunting image of the horse-drawn procession emerging from the forest mist which appeals to me.  It gives the painting a mystical quality.

Christmas Eve along the Hudson with the Palisades across the River by Samuel S Carr (c. 1879)

Christmas Eve along the Hudson with the Palisades across the River, was painted by the American artist, Samuel S Carr around 1879. Carr was born in England in 1837. He trained at the Royal School of Design in Chester, and around the age of twenty-five immigrated to America and went to live in New York where he studied mechanical drawing. He never married and moved to Brooklyn in 1879 where he lived with his sister Annie and her husband, and remained there for twenty-eight years. He became the president of the Brooklyn Art Club. Much of his work were pastoral scenes which were quite popular in the 1890s and Carr would vary the times of day and seasons in his work.  In the background seen between the large houses we can just make out the steep cliffs on the Jersey side of the Hudson River known as the Palisades.

Winter Landscape by Louis Apol (c.1885)

Probably because of the inclement winter weather in the Low Countries many of the Dutch and Flemish artists painted winter landscapes. Lodewijk Frederik Hendrik (Louis) Apol was a Dutch painter and one of the most prominent representatives of The Hague School. He was born in September 1850 and as a young man received private art lessons. In 1868, aged eighteen, he received a scholarship from the Dutch King Willem III in 1868. He specialized in winter landscapes and this painting, entitled Winter Landscape, demonstrates his extraordinary talent. This painting, like many of his other landscape works are devoid of people and other figures (except the black crows). In 1880 Louis Apol went on an expedition on the SS Willem Barents to Spitsbergen (Nova Zembla) in the Polar Sea. This sea voyage proved to be a great influence on his work.

Winter Morning by Ivan Choultsé

Ivan Fedorovich Choultsé, a Russian realist landscape painter, was born in St Petersburg on October 21st, 1874. After finishing school, he became an electrical engineer and painted in his free time. It was not until he was thirty-years-old that he seriously studied art. Like our previous painter, Louis Apol, Choultsé travelled to Spitzbergen where he completed a number of depictions of the Arctic landscape. By 1916 Choultsé was already known for his art and members of the Tsar family bought his paintings. He painted spectacular snow scenes in which the light seems to come from behind the canvas and glow. The critics were not as complimentary with regards his art and called them photographic and, as such, non-art. However, the public did not agree, and his intricate style of painting is termed “magic-realism”.  Look carefully at his depiction of the snow.  Look how powdery it seems.  It is so life-like. His fame spread across Europe and as far as America and Canada where his paintings sold well. Toronto art dealer G. Blair Laing wrote in his book Memoirs of an Art Dealer, 1979:

“…He painted spectacular snow scenes in which the light seems to come from behind the canvas and glow. The critics scorned these pictures as photographic and called them non-art – but today this style of painting is called “magic-realism” and is much admired by critics and museum..”

Winter Landscape by Caspar David Friedrich (1811)

If ever you wanted a haunting winter scene, none could probably surpass the 1811 painting, Winter Landscape, by the nineteenth-century German Romantic landscape painter Caspar David Friedrich, who many believe is the most influential German artist of his generation. This is not just a winter landscape there is an element of religious symbolism. Look carefully at the foreground and you will see a crippled man sitting on the ground with his back against a large rock. Often at first glance observers miss the figure who seems to blend with the rock.  His crutch lies abandoned in the snow.  It appears he has given up on life.   He looks upwards at the crucifix, hands clasped in prayer. It is thought that the evergreen trees symbolise faith and the Gothic cathedral which looms out of the mist in the background, symbolises the promise of life after death.

The Magpie by Claude Monet (1868-69)

Claude Monet worked on his painting La Pie (The Magpie) during the winter of 1898/9. Monet tackled the great challenge of a snow-covered landscape. The setting for this work is near the commune of Étretat in Normandy. Monet lived in a house near here with his girlfriend, Camille Doncieux and their one-year-old son, Jean. This painting of a place in the countryside near Etretat, was painted en plein air by Monet and uses very unusual pale, luminous colours. In the work we see a solitary black magpie perched atop a gate. The light of the sun shines upon freshly fallen snow creating blue shadows. The work is hailed as one of the best winterscapes by Monet and is part of the Musée d’Oresay permanent collection.  It is said to be one of its most popular.

Hunters in the Snow by Pieter Bruegel the Elder by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1565)

One of my favourite sixteenth-century painters is Pieter Bruegel the Elder and I am particularly fond of his painting Hunters in the Snow.  The painting is one of a series of works that featured different times of the year. This is a depiction of a wintry scene in a flat-bottomed valley. Three hunters, with little to show for their labours, are returning from an expedition accompanied by their dogs who also appear tired and demoralised after their fruitless outing. The hunters’ backs are bent as they trudge wearily through the snow. It appears to be a cold, yet calm overcast day, and Breugel has used whites and greys to convey the state of the weather. As we look down into the valley we see a number of frozen lakes and a river, on which we can see the silhouettes of the villagers enjoying the weather by skating and playing on the ice.

Skating in Central Park, by Agnes Tait (1934)

Another painting featuring winter pastimes on frozen lakes is the painting Winterscape, Skating in Central Park which was painted in 1934 by the American artist Agnes Tait. I particularly like this work as whenever I visit New York I always visit this beautiful park. Agnes Tait was born in 1894 and was a “Jill of all trades” being a painter, pen-and-ink artist, lithographer, book illustrator, muralist and dancer. Tait depicted the park in late afternoon as the low sun produces a beautifully coloured sky. Her modus operandi for this work was to complete the painting of the landscape first and, only then, add the figures which she would forge into small groups and by doing this she achieved a colourful pattern against the snow and ice. The very dark, almost black tree trunks  is in contrast to the white snow on the ground and the white mist atop of the background trees.

Winter Landscape with Skaters by Hendrick Avercamp

Many of the Dutch and Flemish winter paintings focus on how the people enjoyed the winters when lakes and canals were frozen over and they were able to go out on them and skate. One great exponent of that genre was Hendrick Avercamp. Avercamp was born in Amsterdam in January 1585, a time of the The Little Ice Age, which brought colder winters to parts of Europe and no doubt as a child he had spent the winters skating on the frozen lakes and canals. He later moved to Kampen, a town to the east of Amsterdam. Averkamp, who was mute, was known as “de Stomme van Kampen” (the mute of Kampen).  I particularly love this type of work.  I specifically like the busyness of the depiction.  Everywhere you look there is something going on.

The Drum Bridge and Yuhi Hill at Meguro by Utagawa Hiroshige (1857)

Utagawa Hiroshige was born in Edo in 1797 and originally it was envisioned that he would follow the career of his father, who was a fire-watchman. Both his parents died in 1809. Hiroshige is one of the two great masters of the Japanese landscape woodblock print, the other being Hokusai. Hiroshige’s forte was for his depictions of scenes which featured snow and rain, and has led him to be known as “the artist of rain, snow and mist”. For me, there is something special about Japanese woodblock prints and so one which incorporates a winter scene such as Drum Bridge and Yuhi Hill at Meguro, from the series “One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, had to me in my list of favourites.

Riverside near Mustio by Victor Westerholm

Two contrasting paintings, both depicting winter conditions and yet so different you would not believe they were from the same artist. In his painting Riverside near Mustio, look how Westerholm has, with just a few brushstrokes, and use of tones of grey and green, depicted the glass like surface of the water with its reflective quality.
Victor Axel Westerholm was born in Finland on 4 January 1860, at Nagu island in the Turku archipelago. He was the son of Vicor Westerholm, a ship’s captain, and Maria Westerholm (née Andersson). At the young age of nine, he attended the Finnish Art Society’s Drawing School in Turku. Later he would go to Germany and study under Eügen Ducker in Düsseldorf and then later enrolled at the Académie Julian in Paris. In his late twenties, he became a teacher at the school of the Society of Art in Turku, and in 1891 became the director of the Turku art museum.

Evening Sun by Victor Axel Westerholm

He often painted winter landscapes and sunsets in the archipelago of Åland, where he had his summer residence, Tomtebo, close to the Lemström Canal. It was here that he founded and artists’ colony.  In his work, Evening Sun, look how the red colour of the buildings draw your eyes to focus on them.

Christmas Moonlight by Thomas Kinkade

I don’t suppose I could give you an insight into winterscapes and the hint of Christmas without including a painting by the American artist Thomas Kinkade who was the King of homely, some would say syrupy depictions. His painting Christmas Moonlight certainly evokes a feeling of happiness, serenity and contentment, all of which are things we strive for in life. It is sad to think that the artist himself, in the latter days, could not achieve these feelings for himself.

Poor Woman of the Village by Gustave Courbet

In complete contrast to the Kinkade painting, I thought I would look at a work by the Realist painter, Gustave Courbet. Gustave Courbet was a French painter who came from an affluent family but preferred the company of the ordinary folk. Courbet led the Realism movement in 19th-century French painting and was unswerving in his belief that his depictions of life must be truthful, “warts and all” and by so doing, rejected Academic teachings and the Romanticism movement.
In his painting, Poor Woman of the Village, we see his realistic attitude to a winter scene. The snow-clad landscape is no different to most but the main subject, an old woman, is a study of hardship. In the foreground we see a young child accompanied by an old woman dragging along her goat. This is not a painting oozing with symbolism. It is a painting which evokes a sense of realism as to the plight of the woman and the child as they battle the elements. It is a depiction of the unforgiving severity of winter.

It is for you to choose whether you like the Kinkade style or the Courbet style.  Do we need a period of escapism to make us feel better about life?  Whatever your choice, I wish you all a Happy Christmas.


Winter Landscape with koek en zopie at night by Andreas Schelfhout

Winter Landscape with Cake and Zopie at night by Andreas Schelfhout (1849)

In my last blog I looked at the life of Johan Jongkind.  His initial artistic tuition came when he attended the Drawing Academy of The Hague and it was here that he was taught by Andreas Schelfhout.  Having looked at the life of the pupil I thought it only right to spend some time looking at the life and work of the teacher, so today my featured artist is Andreas Schelfhout.

After the great periods of Dutch art in the Golden Age of the 17th century, there came many economic and political problems which lessened the activity in art in the country. However, the fine arts in the Netherlands enjoyed a revival around 1830, which is a period that is now referred to as the Romantic School in Dutch painting. The style of painting during this period was an imitation of the great 17th century artists. The most widely accepted paintings of this period were landscapes and paintings which reflected national history.   One of the leading painters of this time was Andreas Schelfhout whose works included landscapes, especially winter scenes, and also paintings depicting woodlands and the dunes between The Hague and Scheveningen.

Andreas Schelfhout became one of the most important and influential Dutch landscape artists of the 19th Century.   He was born in The Hague in 1787.  His father owned a gilding and picture framing business and it was here that Andreas worked until 1811.  During this time Andreas painted a number of pictures in his spare time and in 1811 he submitted some of his works at an exhibition in The Hague for amateur artists.  His paintings were well received, so much so, that his father realised that his son may be able to earn a living as an artist and so arranged for him to study art under Joannes Breckenheimer, a painter of stage scenery.   Breckenheimer taught him to paint motifs such as city scenes and landscape but also instructed him in the technical aspects of painting, such as perspective and paint preparation.  Schelfhout, during this time, made detailed studies of the great 17th Century Dutch  Masters of landscape art such as Meindert Hobbema and Jacob van Ruisdael. It was also during this period that he learned to sketch en plein air.   Schelfhout remained with Breckenheimer for four years at which time he decided to go it alone and set up his own workshop in 1815.

In those early days his works were very popular with the art lovers from The Hague but little was known about him in the outlying areas.  Soon however his fame spread to Belgium and with fame, came commissions.  In 1818 he exhibited a set of four paintings depicting the four seasons at an exhibition in Amsterdam and that year he became a member of the Royal Academy for Visual Arts of Amsterdam.  The following year, 1819, he received a Gold Medal at the exhibition in Antwerp and three years later, in 1822, he was named Fourth Class Correspondent of the Royal Dutch Institute and from that moment on his reputation was ensured.  His landscape work was mainly of summer scenes of the countryside, which at that time were far more popular than the winter landscape works.  However this latter type of landscape painting became increasingly more popular with the art buying public and Schelfhout began to exhibit some of his winter landscape paintings in the many exhibitions held in the towns and cities of the Netherlands as well as the Salons in Brussels and Antwerp.  He completed a large variety of paintings over the next few years, winter and summer landscapes, beach scenes, moonlight subjects and a few paintings of animals.  Records show that his annual painting output was about twenty, of which,  over seventy per cent were winter or summer landscapes.

In 1833, Schelfhout decided that it was time to find new landscapes to paint and to travel again so as to increase his knowledge other artistic trends. He first visited France.  Whilst staying in Paris he came into contact with the French Romantic landscape painters and it was after studying their works that his landscape paintings took on brighter colours in comparison to his previous sober palette.  Two years later, he crossed the Channel to visit England where he was able to study the works of the great English landscape artist, John Constable.  Art historians believe, that following these trips, Schelfhout’s palette became warmer and his choice of motifs became more varied.  He taught at The Hague Academy and, as we saw in my last blog, one of his pupils was Johan Jongkind.

He became a member of the Pulchri Studio which was formed in 1847 and which was, and still is, an important art institution and art studio based in The Hague.  The Pulchri Studio was established as there was a growing discontent among the young artists in The Hague about the apparently insufficient opportunities for training and development.  The founders believed that the studio could provide an outlet for art intellectuals to model their work and to exchange thoughts and opinions.  It was in this studio that Schelfhout would complete paintings from the sketches he had made earlier, during his art trips.

The height of his career came in the 1840‘s and 1850’s when his summer landscapes such as Landscape near Haarlem gained him international renown.  However he will probably always best be remembered for his depiction of Dutch winter scenes with their perfect clarity of the ice and the delicate blue wintry tone.  In his later years he became part of the Hague School, which was the name given to a group of artists who lived and worked in The Hague between 1860 and 1890. Their work was heavily influenced by the realist painters of the French Barbizon School. The painters of The Hague school generally made use of relatively somber colors, which is why the Hague School was sometimes referred to as the Gray School.

Schelfhout died on 23rd April, 1870. He was buried in the Eik en Duinen Cemetery in The Hague. His death made a deep impression on the art-loving city and numerous influential figures followed the funeral procession. His death marked the end of the era we now call Romanticism.

Although his portfolio of work included a wide range of themes, he became best known for his winter scenes. He was a Master of the winter landscape genre often embellished with skaters on the frozen waterways.  It was these works of Andreas Schelfhout which continue to be his most sought after works. His skilfully and delicately executed winter landscapes gained him great success and enhanced his reputation both in his home country and abroad.   He became known as the Claude Lorrain of the winter scene.

My featured work today is a winter landscape scene by Andreas Schelfhout entitled Winter Landscape with koek en zopie at night, which he completed in 1849.  It combines the artist’s talents as a painter of winter landscapes and a painter of scenes bathed in moonlight.  Koek en Zopie is the name given to small stands that sold hot food and drinks that kept the skaters warm. ‘Koek’ is the generic term for cakes and ‘zopie‘ is an old recipe for a warm mix of beer, rum and spices.  In today’s painting we see the Koek en zopie stand on the bank, to the left of the frozen river, illuminated by some sort of brazier, which will, along with the alcoholic zopie,  help to keep the skaters and the vendor warm.

The painting is part of the Rademakers Collection, which is a private compilation of romantic paintings from the 19th century owned by Jef Rademakers, a former owner of a television production company.   In the eighties he was commissioned to make a series of documentaries about art in Dutch collections. These programs brought him into close contact with the art world: museums, dealers, auction houses and art historians.  From this, he started to realise that besides being an admirer of art, one could also become the owner of art works from the past.   In the 1990’s, Jef Rademakers decided to renounce the world of television and to hand over his production company. From that moment on he started a new life as a fulltime collector of art. Nowadays the Rademakers Collection consists of more than a hundred highly romantic paintings from mainly Dutch and Belgian masters of the 19th century.   The art works in his collection are now often loaned out to foreign galleries and museums.

Winter Scene by Joos de Momper

Winter Scene by Joos de Momper (c.1630)

“…Why, sir, Claude for air and Gaspar for composition and sentiment; you may walk in Claude’s pictures and count the miles. But there are two painters whose merit the world does not yet know, who will not fail hereafter to be highly valued, Cuyp and Mompers…”

Richard Wilson

In an earlier blog about the Welsh landscape painter, Richard Wilson, I told you how he believed that although the landscape works of Claude Lorrain and Gaspar Dughet were lauded, he spoke about the, as yet, unknown talents of Aelbert Cuyp and Joos de Momper and so I thought it was time to take a look at the life of Joos de Momper the Younger and one of his greatest works.

Joos de Momper also known as Josse de Momper was born in 1564 in Antwerp.  He was just one of an outstanding artistic dynasty.  His great grandfather, Jan de Momper I,  was a painter in Bruges; his son, and our featured artist’s grandfather, Josse de Momper I, was also known as an artist and dealer who moved from Bruges to Antwerp, where his son, and Joos’ father,  Bartolomeus de Momper , inherited both occupations, as well as being an engraver. Bartholomeus’s sons Josse de Momper II and Jan de Momper II were both landscape painters, but Josse the younger, today’s featured painter, was the exceptional artist of the family.

He received his initial artistic training under the guidance of his father, Bartholomäus de Momper.   In 1581, when he was seventeen years of age, de Momper’s father, who was at that time Dean of the Antwerp painters’ guild, The Guild of St Luke, enrolled him as a vrijmeester (master) into that association.   It is believed that around this time Joos travelled to Italy.  Records show that an artist in Treviso, Lodewijk Toeput, was his teacher .  Another reason for believing that the young artist had visited Italy is that so many of his paintings featured mountain scenes and as he spent most of his life in Antwerp, to have such a knowledge of mountains, almost certainly meant that he had at one time crossed the Alps into Italy.   So did he go to Italy?   A further clue to whether de Mompers was ever in Italy came in 1985  when the frescoes in the church of San Vitale in Rome, previously attributed to Paul Bril, were attributed to Joos de Momper the Younger.

Records show that in 1590, the twenty-six year old artist was back in Antwerp as it was in this year and in this city that he married Elisabeth Gobyn.  The couple had ten children.  The painting dynasty was to continue with two of the  couples’ sons, Gaspard and Philips both becoming notable artists.  Gaspard de Momper and Philips de Momper I,  both became painters although little is known of their work, except that Philips executed the figures in some of his father’s paintings; he also spent some years in Rome, where he had travelled with Jan Breughel the Younger

 In 1594 De Momper collaborated with two other Flemish painters Adam van Noort and Tobias Vwerhaecht as well as the Flemish architect Cornelis Floris on the decorative programme to celebrate the entry of the Archduke Ernest into Antwerp.   Shortly after this de Momper was invited to become one of the Archduke’s court painters, a position he took up at the court of the Archduke and Archduchess Albert and Isabel Clara Eugenia, the sovereign rulers of the Spanish Netherlands. In 1611, de Momper was made Dean of the Guild of St Luke in Anterp.

Most of de Momper’s paintings, like the one we are going to look at today, featured landscapes and his work was very well received. His landscapes were sometimes topographically accurate whilst others would be idealised fantasy ones, but all sold well.    His work was highly regarded and he is considered to be the most important Flemish landscape artrist of his time.  The timeline of great Flemish painters puts him coming after Pieter Bruegel, whose works greatly influenced him, and before Peter Paul Rubens.  

My Daily Art Display today features a painting simply entitled Winter Landscape and was painted by Joos de Momper the Younger around 1630 and can now be seen in the North Carolina Museum of Art.  This is a winterscape with a number of figures,  which were believed to have been painted, not by de Momper, but by Pieter Bruegel’s son Jan.  I love this work as it is so “busy”.  Besides the beauty of the landscape in winter we have a dozen people depicted carrying on with their daily duties.  Pieter Brueghel the Elder’s influence is clearly evident in this winter landscape.    Joos de Momper was known for his use of Mannerist colors in many of his landscapes, but in the more realistic pictorial representations, such as today’s painting, he used more natural colors.   Momper’s has managed to deliver a scene with such aesthetic appeal. 

Woman by cart

In this village landscape before us, the houses and people, which in his mountain landscapes were mere accessories, are now in some way the main focus of our attention.   Look at the woman in red who stands by the cart.  Look how the artist has depicted her struggling and straining with an arched back to lift the barrel on to the cart.  Look how her face is reddened by the physical effort.  To the right of her we see a mother and two children in a line.  The mother is carrying a bundle of firewood on her head whilst her son tags behind with a token few sticks of kindling.  Following up at the rear is the young daughter, with her arms outstretched shrieking, as she is being left behind.

Man with baskets

It is a scene full of activity and I love to cast my eyes around the painting to discover what is happening.  At the barn we see a man repairing a cart whilst the white horse stands passively to the side.  In the left midground we see a man bent over surveying what looks like two large wicker baskets.  I am not sure what he is doing but whatever is going through his mind, he seems fascinated by them.  Besides the people in the painting, look at the way the artist has elegantly painted the trees which have shed their leaves and which stand tall and unbowed in this cold but still winter’s day.

In the background on the right we have the nearby town.  It is separated from our main scene by a river, the water of which seems partly frozen over.  Fishermen are at the river trying to catch something for their meal in the small parts that have yet to be frozen. 

Town and bridge

The way to the town is accessed by a small wooden bridge and we see a man with his dogs making his way over it and heading into town..

I hope you have enjoyed this painting and thanks to Richard Wilson, I have discovered a new Flemish artist and one day I will return to him and look at another of his works.

Finally my thanks go to Universal Pops’ Photostream on Flickr for the details of the painting.  His photographic site is quite amazing and well worth a visit.