February 21, 2013

River Ice

 The small river in my town is running strongly under islands of ice, as late winter begins to transition to early spring.

The ice is a shelf suspended above the water.

Round-ended icicles hang in a huddled crowd. 

A small ice floe is like a miniature palace, with a columned row at its center.

Neil Welliver, Study for Snow in Hope Brook, 1990; oil on canvas, 24 x 24 in. 
image courtesy of Alexandre Gallery 

While working on the icy river photos, I began to think of painted images of ice. Neil Welliver came first to mind, with his many paintings of streams in the woods.

Caspar David Friedrich, The Sea of Ice, 1824; oil on canvas, 38 x 50 in.
image courtesy of Wikimedia

But then there are the apocalyptic visions of Friedrich and Church. Friedrich's sharp ice is a threatening, jagged pile. The painting is also known as The Wreck of Hope, referring to an arctic expedition; you can see pieces of wood caught amid the upthrust forms.

Frederic Church, The Icebergs, 1861; oil on canvas, 64 1/2 x 112 1/2 in. 
image courtesy of Wikimedia

Church's vision of icebergs has a sublime beauty, but still the threat remains as we see the broken parts of ships cast ashore. Church traveled to arctic waters near Newfoundland and Labrador to do sketches for his iceberg paintings. Our small floes of ice on our little Vermont river don't come close to the drama of the arctic, but they have their own more intimate beauty.

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