Painting winter & painting Christmas

While we all wait for Christmas and the first snowfalls are expected, here is an article on the representation of WINTER in french paintings, in Flemish and Scandinavian countries! Lets have a look at all the fun christmas traditions we have in Europe but in paintings!

Who better than Scandinavian people and artists can talk about snow ? In Norway, snow comes as early as mid- september and stays around until late April on the ground and late May in the mountains. Therefore snow it is preponderant in norsk landscapes paintings!

When Norway became independant in 1905, the country needed to create its own identity. They had to find what made them different from the swedes or the danes, finding what truly made them norwegiana.

How did they find their identity? For once, artists had a big say! Musicians and painters had to create a sense of communauty around their “new” nation.

The answer, for many of them was in their love for nature. Norwegian landscapes are breathtaking! Norway’s treasure lies in its natural beauty, its soul is in the mountains, in the numerous waterfalls, in the forests and in its majestic fjorden. This nationalistic mouvement really influenced the new norwegian art scene. Even the national Anthem is an ode to Norway, it starts by “Yes we love this land”. Art, especially music and painting became,for norwegian artists, a way of expressing their love for their country.

As the cold season last 6 months it was natural to paint the beauty of winter, when everything slows down for a few months and everything seems serene and ever so quiet.

Winter seen by Norwegian artists

Winter over Sognefjord

By Johan Christian Dahl

Johan Christian Dahl (1788–1857), known as ‘the father of Norwegian painting’ was a very prolific romantic painter who travelled a lot as he thought it was easier to paint Norway when is was far awy from home. He met Kasper Friedrich , the great romantic artist when he lived in Dresden.

Personnaly, what I like in his paintings are the attention to detail and the color palet he used. The result in always very dramatic but soft at the same time. I always feel his love for Nature and Norway in his paintings. You can see many of his paintings in Bergen, at the KODE museum and in Oslo.

Winter night in the mountains

By Harald Sohlberg

Harald Sohlberg wrote in the late 1880 ‘I have felt nature’s enigmatic and incomprehensible side and I have instinctively sought to know and understand it,’ His landscapes are very colorfull, simplified but deep, evocative while defying a classical landscapes definition. You can see his paintings in Oslo, at the nasjonal museet.

Christmas seen by danish painters

Selling Christmas Tree

By David Jacob Jacobson

David Jacob Jacobson (1821-1871) is a danish painter. We are having a hard time finding any informations about him so any information you might have about him is welcome. This painting is quite typical from the golden age of Danish Paintings, famous for its beautiful idealized version of reality. The most important Danish painting collection can be seen in Coppenhagen at the SMK.

Glad Jul / Merry Christmas

By Viggo Johansen, 1891

Viggo Johansen(1851–1935) was a reknown danish artist. He was part of the Skagen movement, a group of painters who met every summer in Skagen, a lovely seaside town, north of Danemark, halfway between Christiansand and Göteborg. Viggo Johansen exhibited in Paris from 1885, and he was greatly influenced by the work of the Impressionists, he noticed there was barely any black in Monet’s paintings and he really liked the idea of using lighter notes.

Winter seen by the impressionnists

La Pie /The Magpie

By Claude Monet, Salon de 1869

Claude Monet was a true master of lights. On this paintings you can see a magpie, standing on a fence, observing its surroundings. There is a lovely contrast between the darkness of the wooden fence and the brightness of the snow coverred building and this egg white icy sky. This landscape is a very peacefull one, it is almost soothing to lok at. This masterpiece is exposed at the Orsay museum.

La neige à Louveciennes/ Snow at Louveciennes

By Alfred Sisley 1875-1878

Alfred Sisley mostly did landscapes, he loved the poetry that transpired from them. He like representing the peace of quiet of the riverside wther he was in Paris or in London. We often say Sisley died of a broken heart following the death of his wife and having a hard time being recognized as a painter. Sisley (1839-1899) was a bristish painter born in Paris who became great friends with the impressionnists painters of his time.Many of his paintings are exposed at the Orsay museum.

Winter seen by Dutch masters

The Census at Bethlehem

By Pieter Brueghel , 1566

At first glance this paintings seems to be set in the Netherlands or in Belgium, at least, this is what the architecture seems to give away! On the bottom left corner people are gathering in front of an inn. They are here for the Census. People are paying their taxes, some are paying with monney but most people are paying what they are due with their own produce: A butcher is about to slaughter a pig, someone is bringing hay, another tools and chairs, chickens are let loose… It is a beehive of activity!
In the center, a young lady dressed in blue is sitting on a donkey. Her husband, is leading the donkey and carrying a sort of axe. It is Mary and her Husband Joseph, the day before Christmas in Bethleem! So the snow was fooling us! Brughel paitnted winter through his own eyes and as he knew it: To him, winter was a cold, snowy affair when people skate, cut trees down and play in the snow!
You can see his paintings in Lille, at the palais des beaux-arts. If you’ld like to know more book our tour of the museum!

Winterlandscape with Ice skaters

By Hendrick Avercamp, 1608

In the Netherlands the 17th century is called the Golden age. At that time the Netherlands was doing extremely well, northern Europe suffered really cold winters. We now call this period the Little ice age. The Dutch managed to stockpile a lot of grain in good years and sold it for very healthy profits when food shortages plagued Europe. Therefore the country became really wealthy. The Dutch maritime empire grew, the number of its colonies too. The economy was strong, the kingdom very influent and the dutch painters very much in demand. As it was so cold winter scenes became very important and every dutch masters started painting skating scene, frozen canals, and winter scenes.

Avercamp, a painter from Kampen, a city located north-east of Amsterdam, was one of the most influent painter of that time. What he became famous for was the way he painted winter light, in the winter months in northern Europe the sky has a very interesting pinkish-grey tone which he transcribed very well.
On this painting, representing peoople on the ice, hundreds of people are out on the ice, most of them for pleasure, others working. In the left foreground crows and a dog feast on the carcass of a horse that has frozen to death! The painting is beautiful, serene and harsh at the same time, Just like winter! You can see this painting at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

We hope you enjoyed this post!

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