Five Favourite Winterscapes
'At Christmas I no more desire a rose, than wish a snow in May’s new-fangled shows'
William Shakespeare, Loves Labours Lost.
The festive season brings with it the promise of all those special wintry delights and here we offer five of the great images artists have produced with the coldest months of the year in mind.
Eric Ravilious, Considerable Falls of Snow, 1938, out of copyright
Gilbert White (1720-1793) was a pioneering curate from a small village in Hampshire. An early Naturalist he observed and recorded the Natural world in his famous and well-loved book ‘A Natural History of Selborne.’ ‘Considerable falls of snow, which lay deep and uniform on the ground without any drifting, wrapping up the more humble vegetation in perfect security,’ is one of the texts in the book that Eric Ravilious, the brilliantly talented English wood engraver and water colourist, chose to illustrate for a 1930’s edition.
| Rembrandt Van Rijn, Adoration of the Shepherds,1645, Oil on canvas, some rights reserved
Rembrandt was active in the Golden Age of Dutch art when Calvinist doctrine suppressed depictions of holy scenes. Originally catholic Rembrandt’s family converted to Calvinism before he was born and throughout his career Rembrandt regularly painted scenes from the Bible. This nativity shows a number of shepherds and the holy family gathered round the infant Jesus and the warm light illuminating the figures emanates from within the cradle. Rembrandt mixed his colours to such a degree that it is often impossible to identify single pigments; merged together they create the golden light and dark shadow so characteristic of Rembrandt’s chiaroscuro technique.
|Hunters in the snow, Pieter Bruegel. 1565. Oil on canvas
Another master from the Netherlands, Pieter Bruegel painted one of the defining representations of winter, Hunters in the Snow in 1565. An updated version of the medieval tradition of representing seasonal cycles, it shows a forlorn group of hunters walking with their dogs through an imaginary landscape. The men return to a village full of the work ,fun and life of human society, a fire for cooking, people carrying wood and children playing on the ice, so heart- warming that the astronauts in Tarkovsky’s film Solaris have the picture on the wall of their space station as a reminder of life back on Earth.
| The Skating Minister, Henry Raeburn,1790, Oil on canvas
The Late 18th century in Scotland was an intense period of intellectual and scientific discovery that became known as the Scottish Enlightenment. One of its defining images is the painting by Henry Raeburn of the Reverend Robert Walker, amongst other things founding member of the Edinburgh Skating Club, the world’s first figure skating club. The Reverend Robert Walker Skating on Duddingston Loch,1790, better known as The Skating Minister, shows the Church of Scotland minister gliding with confidence and control across the treacherous ice, symbolic of the power of rational, scientific thought and reason.
|Snow Falling in the Lane, Edvard Munch, 1906 © The Munch Museum/ The Munch - Ellingsen Group, BONO, Oslo/DACS, London 2014|
Snow Falling in the Lane, 1906, shows two figures out on a snowy lane. Characteristically for Munch the natural world is painted in swirling, dream-like forms that are just recognisable as trees, fields and clouds. Long dark winters and blankets of snow are typical of Munch’s native Norway and his expressive painting style is often psychologically interpreted as indicating an inner turmoil. Painted in Winsor & Newton Artists Oil Colour the beautiful, muted colours of Snow falling in the lane also offer an uplifting vision of two companions enjoying a winter walk.