Paintings of Winter in the History of Art








Hendrick Avercamp,Winter Landscape Near a Village, (1610-1615) oil on panel.

From the 1560s to the 1620s, Northern Europe endured an extremely cold period known as the “Little Ice Age.” Inspired by the winter landscapes of Flemish artists such as Bruegel (below), winter landscapes became a popular theme in Dutch art. Hendrick Avercamp elevated the subject to a new genre. Avercamp was deaf and mute, but this winter scene is noisy with life. Among the many details in this painting are boots hung up to dry on a wooden fence (bottom right); a boat sailing along the ice (center); a public toilet in use (the upturned boat to the left of the inn with the man sitting inside); and, to the right of the boots, a bearded old man, accompanied by his dog, and carrying a basket. The same old man appears in at least two other winter landscapes by Avercamp, and may be his self-portrait.









Pieter Bruegel, The return of the Hunters, (1565) Oil on panel.

Like Avercamp, Bruegel populates his landscape with details from daily life: skaters on a frozen pond, hunters with their hounds, birds in flight, a pedestrian on a foot bridge, and women cooking over an open fire. The mountain landscape in the background is a figment of Bruegel’s imagination. He had never been to the Alps, but had seen images of them from other artists’ drawings. This mountain range is Bruegel’s interpretation of what the Alps look like-in the heart of an otherwise Netherlandish landscape.

Beverly Harbor








Meg Black (2008). Three views of the harbor in Winter, Beverly, MA. Each painting 20 x 20 x 2 inches. Abaca, cotton and pigment.

These paintings are of the rocky shoreline in winter at the edge of the homeowner’s property and are installed along the staircase of their historical home in Beverly, MA. We chose this time of year as it is the most intimate, the least populated with summer visitors and exhibits the raw beauty of the New England Coast at its most powerful. Unlike the noisy populated paintings of Avercamp and Bruegel, these paintings act as studies of the water currents as they appear in winter: active, cold brilliant and ever-changing.