December 8, 2010

Picturing Winter

Eishosai Choki, Snow, ca, 1794; color woodcut; 14 3/4 x 9 3/4 in.

We have the first glimmers of thin sun today after several days of blowing snow flurries; the temperatures are cold, the ground is white, the cats are staying indoors. Winter is really and truly here, and aside from not particularly enjoying day upon day of low gray light, the quiet and inwardness of winter is a pleasure for me, a time for reflection and reading and working. I happily spend days on end in my cozy house, not going down off my hill.

So I thought I'd put together a few images that artists have made of winter, showing its varied aspects. I got the idea to do this from Facebook, where many artists post albums of related works. The Japanese woodcut shows a lovely side of winter, with large snowflakes dancing down, and curves of snow-covered parasol and white hat create a lilting rhythm.

Vilhelm Hammershoi, Winter Landscape, 1895-96; 32 3/4 x 25 1/2 in.

Hammershoi was a Danish artist whose work is spare and restrained, with color that is almost not there. In the gentle interlacing of bare branches he creates a sense of light caught in trees, as they become alive and graceful.

Edvard Munch, White Night, 1901; oil on canvas; 45 1/2 x 43 3/4 in.

The far northern white nights of mid-winter provide an ecstatic view of landscape, with swirling strokes of paint in sky and trees. The drama of dark trees makes the bright light of snowy expanse and sky even more brilliant.

John Sloan, Backyards, Greenwich Village, 1914; oil on canvas; 26 x 32 in.

Sloan reminds us of the fun of childhood snows: snowmen and sledding and snowball fights. This is a delightful view of early New York, when laundry was still hung outdoors, as it was in my childhood in Brooklyn.

Giorgio Morandi, Landscape, 1944; oil on canvas; 12 x 21 in.

This landscape was made during the war, and seems to reflect a gray, sad feeling. The light is heavy and dim, the snow gray and worn, the sky leaden. What a different view of winter from the image above it! We all have different feelings about the coming dark days, and it seems that it's been ever thus through the ages.


  1. Winter is cozy and a time to hunker down and work.
    I really like the different views of winter you've posted.

  2. ah, Mary, glad you agree about the coziness of winter, and its pleasures of work, and that you enjoy the images.

  3. ah - I'm a sucker for a snow painting. You put up some of my old favorites and a treat I haven't known. That Morandi! Who knew?! thanks.

  4. oh, you're very welcome, Cathy. That Morandi is a surprise, isn't it? We are used to his sunny landscapes. This was in the show at the Met a few years ago, and I photographed it from the catalog.

  5. wonderful images! I am not familiar with Morandi's landscapes so that is a new one for me. Snowing and blowing here with temps dropping precipitously. These pix are much more pleasant than the reality of a Midwestern blizzard. I think it may be too cold for the camera today ....