The Surprisingly Interesting History of Winter Landscape Painting, Pt. 1/4: 1400-1870

Happy 2021, folks! I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely feeling a great swell of hope and gratitude as we move forward into this new year — what with its promise of vaccines, a reopened economy, and rekindled friendships and community ties. Those incredible Democratic Senate wins in Georgia don’t hurt either!

Anyway, as many of you know, I have a bit of an obsessive personality. I’m the kind of person who gets easily fixated on projects or subjects of interest, sometimes worryingly so. And my latest obsession—as odd and passionate as any—has actually been the history of winter landscape painting. Yep, you read that right. Since a few days before Christmas, I have spent several hours every day scouring the internet in search of awe-inspiring winter landscapes from art history. My tired eyes have scanned thousands of paintings, and I’ve finally come up with a list of 400 or so that I want to share with you in chronological order—a diverse selection which I think will beautifully illustrate the story of winter landscape painting (at least in the West). And may I just say: it’s not as boring as it sounds! In fact, I think it’s riveting stuff. I hope you will agree.

How, you may ask, did I become so fixated on such a bizarre topic? Well, like many folks, I’ve long enjoyed the glittering and austere beauty of winter landscapes. It’s a big reason I loved The Revenant, for example, and sometimes feel nostalgic for the three winters I endured in Canada. I’m not a big fan of the cold, but I love what cold weather does to the land. That said, I only became interested in this particular topic—the history of winter landscape painting—when my wife posted an article from NPR over the holidays called “These Artists Will Change Your Mind About Winter” by Susan Stamberg. It contains some great lesser-known examples of winter landscapes as well as some fun commentary. “For me,” Stamberg writes, “the perfect way to experience snow is to see it hanging on the wall of a great museum!” I can empathize.

Anyway, that article sparked my interest and led me to do a quick search of other lists of winter landscape paintings from art history. What I found was that most of the lists—such as here, here, here, and here—recycled the same dozen or so famous winter landscapes with not that much variation. There has to be more than just these, I thought. In fact, I knew there was. I knew enough about the massive and diverse history of Western painting to know that there was indeed much more to winter landscape painting.

Yet, it’s certainly not a well-known subgenre. If I think back to my Art History courses in college, there were very few examples of winter scenes. If you could somehow list the 1,000 most popular paintings in the Western public’s imagination, probably no more than 10 would feature any snow or ice, and pretty much all of those 10 paintings would be by either Pieter Brueghel the Elder, Caspar David Friedrich, or Claude Monet. That’s what we think of when we think of winter landscapes—and to be sure, those guys are the greatest pioneers of the genre, but there’s much more to it. Despite the traditional aversion to landscape and nature-centered painting in the West prior to the Northern Renaissance, winter has been a big part of Western life. In much of Europe and North America, global warming notwithstanding, snow and ice have been pretty regular features of life for about a quarter of every year, and that was especially true during the so-called “Little Ice Age” which lasted from about 1300 to 1700.

Thus, to get at last to the point, after several weeks of digging I’m ready to start sharing my list with you. It is of course hardly a definitive or even exhaustive list—I’m quite confident in fact that there are still hundreds more stunning winter masterpieces to be discovered, particularly in non-Western and more contemporary art traditions, but I just can’t stand to stare at screens anymore right now. That said, because the list is so long—having, as I said, ballooned to well over 400—I’ve decided to break it up into these four batches:

  • 1.) 1400-1870: This batch goes from the late Medieval period through the Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, Neoclassical, Romantic, and Realist periods in Western art history to the early days of Impressionism, which began in the mid-1860s. It also includes landscapes from the golden era of Japanese printmaking.
  • 2.) 1870-1900: This batch encompasses most of the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist periods—in which there was A LOT of landscape painting being done—as well as the tail-end of the (official) Realist period.
  • 3.) 1900-1930: This batch includes a bunch of works from the Expressionist movement, as well as occasional works from the Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Fauvist, Cubist, and Surrealist movements. It also includes a lot of paintings from North American iterations of Impressionism (e.g., Group of Seven painters) and Regionalism/Realism.
  • 4.) 1930-2020: This last batch is a mix of all kinds of things, mostly from North America, though it largely avoids the abstract and pop-art styles dominant in Western art in the post-WWII era—mainly because there aren’t a lot of obvious “winter landscapes” by abstract artists. Most of these paintings range in style from Regionalism/Realism to modern variations of Impressionism and Expressionism. It’s a very mixed bag.

Ultimately, while winter landscape painting may not be the most exciting genre of art history, I have found that it is a fascinating and illuminating lens through which to view the development of Western art. I hope you too garner some insights from these lists, and find a few works that you too enjoy. Feel free to share your favorites in the comments. Here, therefore, is the first batch, with paintings spanning ~1400-1870:

1.) Anonymous artist – Snow and Ice, from Tacuinum Sanitatis (1390-1400)

2.) Anonymous artist – January fresco at the Castello del Buonconsiglio, Trento (1405-10)

3.) Limbourg Brothers – February, from Tres Riches Heures du duc de Berry (1412-1416)

4.) Anonymous artist – Snowball Fight (in Walters Art Museum, Flemish origin) (1510)

5.) Anonymous artist – January, from The Golf Book (1540s)

6.) Pieter Bruegel the Elder – Adoration of the Magi in a Winter Landscape (1563)

7.) Pieter Bruegel the Elder – Hunters in the Snow (1565)

8.) Pieter Bruegel the Elder – Winter Landscape with Skaters and Bird Trap (1565)

9.) Pieter Brueghel the Elder – The Massacre of the Innocents (1565)

10.) Pieter Bruegel the Elder – The Numbering at Bethlehem (The Census at Bethlehem) (1566)

11.) Lucas van Valckenborch – Winter Landscape with Snowfall near Antwerp (1575)

12.) Lucas van Valckenborch – Winter Landscape (January or February) (1586)

13.) Lucas van Valckenborch – View of Antwerp with the Frozen Scheldt (1593)

14.) Karel van Mander I – Landscape with Snow and the Crucifixion (1599)

15.) Sebastien Vrancx – The Four Seasons: Winter (1600s?)

16.) Hendrick Avercamp – Winter Landscape with Ice Skaters (1608)

17.) Adam van Breen – Skating on the Frozen Amstel River (1611)

18.) Adam van Breen – Winter Landscape with Skaters (1615)

19.) Adriaen van de Venne Winter Landscape with Skaters (1615)

20.) Hendrick Averkamp – Winter Scene on a Canal (1615)

21.) Peter Paul Rubens – Winter: The Interior of a Barn (1618-19)

22.) Pieter Breughel the Younger – Return from the Inn (1620)

23.) Pieter Brueghel the Younger – Мassacre of the innocents (1620s?)

24.) Pieter Brueghel the Younger – A Winter Landscape with Peasants Skating and Playing Kolf on a Frozen River, a Town Beyond (1621)

25.) Jan Wildens – January, Skating on the Frozen River (1630)

26.) Lucas van Uden – Winter Landscape with Snowy Water Mill and Figures (1630s?)

27.) David Teniers the Younger – A Winter Scene with a Man Killing a Pig (1650)

28.) Jan Abrahamsz Beerstraten – The Castle of Muiden in Winter (1658)

29.) William Hogarth – The Four Times of Day: Morning (1736)

30.) Francois Boucher – Four Seasons: Winter (1755)

31.) Ito Jakuchu – Rooster in the Snow (1750s/60s?)

32.) Ito Jakuchu – Mandarin Ducks in the Snow (1759)

33.) Caspar Wolf – The Lower Grindelwald Glacier with Lütschine and the Mettenberg (1774-5)

34.) Francisco de Goya – The Snowstorm or Winter (1786)

35.) George Morland – Winter Landscape (1790s?)

36.) George Morland – Breaking the Ice (1792)

37.) Henry Raeburn – Reverend Robert Walker Skating on Duddingston Loch (1795)

38.) J. M. W. Turner – Passage of Mount Cenis (1800s?)

39.) Caspar David Friedrich – Cairn in Snow (1807)

40.) Caspar David Friedrich – Winter Landscape (1811)

41.) Caspar David Friedrich – Winter Landscape with Church (1811)

42.) J. M. W. Turner – Snow Storm: Hannibal and His Army Crossing the Alps (1812)

43.) Caspar David Friedrich – Monastery Graveyard in the Snow (1817-19)

44.) Francis Guy – Winter Scene in Brooklyn (1818-20)

45.) Katsushika Hokusai – Akabane (1820s?)

46.) Katsushika Hokusai – Cranes on Branch of Snow-covered Pine (1820s)

47.) Kitagawa Fujimaro – Outing in the Snow Storm (1820s/30s?)

48.) Katsushika Hokusai – Fisherman Carrying His Net in the Snow (1821)

49.) Caspar David Friedrich – The Sea of Ice (1824)

50.) Johan Christian Dahl – Megalith Grave in Winter (1824-5)

51.) Thomas Cole – A Snow Squall (1825)

52.) Johan Christian Dahl – Winter at the Sognefjord (1827)

53.) Katsushika Hokusai – Morning after the Snow at Koishikawa in Edo (1830-2)

54.) Katsushika Hokusai – Hunters by a Fire in the Snow (?), from One Hundred Poems Explained by the Nurse (1830s)

55.) Katsushika Hokusai – Puppies in the Snow (1830s?)

56.) Katsushika Hokusai – Travelers with a Heavy Snow in Echigo District (1830s?)

57.) Katsushika Hokusai – Rider in the Snow (Traveler in the Snow) (1833)

58.) Utagawa Hiroshige – Evening Snow at Kanbara (1833-34)

59.) J. M. W. Turner – Valley of Aosta Snowstorm, Avalanche, and Thunderstorm (1836-7)

60.) George Chambers – The Crew of HMS “Terror” Saving the Boats and Provisions on the Night of 15th March (1838)

61.) Johan Christian Dahl – Birch Tree at Slinde in Winter (1838)

62.) Thomas Fearnley – The Glacier at Grindelwald (1838)

63.) Utagawa Hiroshige – Fujikawa, no. 38 from Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido (1838–1840)

64.) François-Auguste Biard – Fighting Polar Bears (1839)

65.) William H. Smyth – Perilous Position of HMS Terror, Captain Back, in the Arctic Regions in the Summer of 1837 (1840s)

66.) Andreas Schelfhout – Winter Landscape with Skaters on the Ice (1840s?)

67.) François-Auguste Biard – Magdalena Bay (1841)

68.) François-Auguste Biard – View of the Arctic Ocean, Walrus Fishing by Greenlanders (1841)

69.) J. M. W. Turner – Snow Storm: Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth (1842)

70.) Remigius van Haanen – Landscape with Frozen Canal (1842)

71.) Utagawa Hiroshige – Snow Scene at the Shrine of Benzaiten (1843)

72.) Utagawa Hiroshige – Evening Snow at Asakusa (1843-7)

73.) Andreas Schelfhout – Winter Landscape with Horses on the Ice (1844)

74.) Théodore Rousseau – The Forest in Winter at Sunset (1846-47)

75.) Andreas Schelfhout – Winter Landscape with ‘Koek en Zopie’ at Night (1849)

76.) Katsushika Hokusai – Tiger in the Snow (1849)

77.) Herman Kauffmann – Coach in the Snowstorm (1850s?)

78.) Emanuel Leutze – Washington Crossing the Delaware (1851)

79.) Vilhelm Kyhn – Winter Night in a Forest (1853)

80.) Utagawa Hiroshige – Atagoshita and Yabu Lane (1857)

81.) Utagawa Hiroshige – The Drum Bridge and Yuhi Hill at Meguro (1857)

82.) Herman Kauffmann – Loading Wood in the Snow (1858)

83.) Richard Brydges Beechey – HMS Erebus Passing Through the Chain of Bergs, 1842 (1860)

84.) Frederic Edwin Church – The Icebergs (1861)

85.) William C. Wall – Winter Scene (1861)

86.) Edwin Landseer – Man Proposes, God Disposes (1864)

87.) Claude Monet – Cart on the Snow Covered Road at Honfleur (1865)

88.) Frederic Edwin Church – Aurora Borealis (1865)

89.) William Bradford – Sealers Crushed by Icebergs (1866)

90.) Claude Monet – Road by Saint-Siméon Farm in Winter (1867)

91.) Claude Monet – The Road in front of Saint-Simeon Farm in Winter (1867)

92.) George Henry Boughton – Pilgrims Going to Church (1867)

93.) Gustave Courbet – Deer in a Snowy Landscape (1867)

94.) Ludvig Munthe – Slädfärd (Sleigh Ride) (1867)

95.) Ludvig Munthe – Winter Landscape (A Fox Hunting in the Forest) (1868)

96.) Pierre-Auguste Renoir – Skaters in the Bois de Boulogne (1868)

97.) Vasily Perov – Last Tavern at City Gates (1868)

98.) Claude Monet – The Magpie (1868-9)

99.) Camille Pissarro – Road to Versailles at Louveciennes (The Snow Effect) (1869)

100.) Alexey Savrasov – Winter Landscape, Rime (1870)

101.) Camille Pissarro – Fox Hill, Upper Norwood (1870)

102.) Camille Pissarro – Route de Versailles, Louveciennes, Winter Sun and Snow (1870)

103.) Edouard Manet – Effect of Snow at Petit-Montrouge (1870)

104.) Ivan Aivazovsky – Ice Mountains in Antarctica, Icebergs (1870)

105.) Ludvig Munthe – Skoginterior (Forest Interior) (1870)

106.) Rosa Bonheur – Wild Boars in the Snow (1870)

107.) Berndt Lindholm – Ice Channel on the Coast (1870s?)

108.) Ludvig Munthe – Mondnacht im Winterwald (Moon Night in Winter Forest) (1870s/80s?)

109.) Ludvig Munthe – On the Path (1870s/80s?)

110.) Ludvig Munthe – The Wood Gatherers (1870s/80s?)

111.) Ludvig Munthe – Vinterlandskap med Gård (Winter Landscape with Farm) (1870s/80s?)

112.) Ludvig Munthe – Winterlandschaft bei Vollmond (Winter Landscape with Full Moon) (1870s/80s?)

113.) Ludvig Munthe – Woodworkers at Dusk (1870s/80s?)

114.) Louis Apol – Achter het Park: A Horse and Cart in Winter (1870s/80s?)

115.) Sophus Jacobsen – Snowy Churchyard (1870s?)

Hope you enjoyed the first batch! Stay tuned for batches 2-4. Let me know if I missed anything.

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