Sunday, December 23, 2012

Winter scene with skaters

Two contrasting faces of Winter to end the year with.

In the Dutch painter Frederick Marinus Kruseman's Winter scene with skaters many characteristics associated with later nineteenth century Romanticism and its idealized view of Nature as a benevolent and beautiful phenomena are present. The fun of the winter sport of ice-skating performed in a setting of scenic snow and ice against a backdrop of a spectacular castle and a dramatic cloudscape, all warmly coloured, are featured in Kruseman's romantic painting.

Paintings of winter scenery and landscapes are a peculiarly Dutch genre. Begun in the Renaissance by Jan Bruegel and developed by Hendrick Avercamp (1585-1634) the crowded scenes of Dutch winter paintings give strong clues as to the high density of the Netherlands population during the century which saw the zenith of Dutch ambitions, establishing an overseas Empire and in European cultural influence.

I've a sinking feeling however that a certain painting  from the seventeenth century, the Golden Age of Dutch art by Jacob van Ruisdael (1628–1682) may in the light of this year's economic and environmental woes, today exert a greater resonance to a large percentage of society than the sweetness and light of Kruseman's romantic painting.

In Jacob Ruisdael's painting's nature has a far less benevolent relationship towards humanity. In Winter Landscape I (1670) the sky is uncompromisingly gloomy and threatening, while in its foreground something has occurred which is rarely depicted in winter scenes, yet which invariably must happen to those skating, a person has fallen down onto the ice. To the credit of Ruisdael he has also depicted an onlooker expressing  an awareness of common humanity, dashing to assist the unfortunate faller. 

Although now more than ever we all appear to be skating upon the thin-ice of the world economy and climate, may I take this opportunity to wish all visitors to this blog a Happy Xmas and a New Year full of the rosy-cheeked, cheerful optimism of the above painting, with little of the black gloom of Winter as depicted below.


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