Arti­cle: Winter in Dutch Drawings

Focus on the Peck Feature

This instal­la­tion from the Peck Col­lec­tion cel­e­brates depic­tions of the win­ter sea­son by sev­en­teenth- and eigh­teenth-cen­tu­ry Dutch artists. Dur­ing this peri­od, north­ern Europe expe­ri­enced bit­ter­ly cold win­ters known as the Lit­tle Ice Age. Net­works of canals, rivers, and lakes through­out the Nether­lands froze for months on end, both chal­leng­ing daily life and offer­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for fun and recre­ation. Extreme­ly pop­u­lar among artists and patrons, charm­ing por­tray­als of win­ter activ­i­ties like ice skat­ing, sleigh rides, and ice fish­ing demon­strate how the Dutch embraced the frigid weath­er with per­se­ver­ance and joy.

Although the win­ter months in the Nether­lands are mild today, from the four­teenth to the nine­teenth cen­tu­ry north­ern Europe expe­ri­enced bit­ter­ly cold weath­er known at the Lit­tle Ice Age. Frigid tem­per­a­tures could extend for months on end, result­ing in frozen canals, rivers, and lakes. Despite this dis­rup­tion to daily life, the Dutch embraced solid water­ways, using them as a quick means of trans­porta­tion and as a site for fun and recre­ation. Artists were inspired by their snow and ice-cov­ered sur­round­ings, and cre­at­ed land­scape and genre scenes that appealed to sev­en­teenth-cen­tu­ry col­lec­tors for their nat­u­ral­ism and charm. 

This instal­la­tion of draw­ings from the Peck Col­lec­tion cel­e­brates depic­tions of the win­ter sea­son by three sev­en­teenth- and eigh­teenth-cen­tu­ry Dutch artists, from por­tray­als of ice skat­ing and sleigh rides to hunt­ing and ice fish­ing, among other activ­i­ties. Although each draw­ing has a high degree of fin­ish and fea­tures a sim­i­lar use of wash, (or dilut­ed ink) to indi­cate shad­ow and form, they dif­fer in their mood and atmos­phere. From a tran­quil view of skaters out­side of town to a bustling and crowd­ed day on the ice, these draw­ings demon­strate how the Dutch endured the frigid weath­er with both per­se­ver­ance and joy.

Win­ter Scene with Skaters and Hunters

Allart van Everdin­gen, Dutch, 1621 – 1675, Win­ter Scene with Skaters and Hunters, c. 1650, pen and brown ink with brown wash. The Peck Col­lec­tion, 2017.1.31

See Win­ter Scene with Skaters and Hunters in more detail here. 

The Dutch have enjoyed skat­ing as a sea­son­al pas­time for cen­turies. Dur­ing the 1500s, they replaced tra­di­tion­al ani­mal bone skates with thin strips of iron secured to their shoes, mak­ing it eas­i­er to move quick­ly over the ice. In this draw­ing, two skaters glide togeth­er in per­fect syn­chronic­i­ty among pedes­tri­ans who, despite the icy con­di­tions, go about their daily business. 

Allart van Everdin­gen was a pro­lif­ic drafts­man and cre­at­ed numer­ous draw­ings rep­re­sent­ing the win­ter envi­ron­ment. Using wash, or dilut­ed ink, the artist expert­ly cap­tured the over­cast and frosty atmos­phere of a typ­i­cal win­ter day in the Nether­lands. Descrip­tive details, such as the hunched fig­ures brac­ing them­selves against the cold, add to the nat­u­ral­ism of the scene.

Ice Scene with Two Men Push­ing a Sled

Ger­ard ter Borch the younger, Dutch, 1617 – 1681, Ice Scene with Two Men Push­ing a Sled, c. 1633-34, pen and brown ink and wash. The Peck Col­lec­tion, 2017.1.9

See Ice Scene with Two Men Push­ing a Sled in more detail here. 

Around the age of six­teen, Ger­ard ter Borch com­plet­ed sev­er­al draw­ings of win­ter­time activ­i­ties. This draw­ing cap­tures the swift nature of trav­el­ing on the ice as two young men push a woman in a sled. Shown from behind, the mon­u­men­tal fig­ures run on the slick sur­face with­out the aid of skates past a cur­so­ri­ly drawn build­ing in the back­ground. Like the glassy sur­face of the frozen water, their bod­ies and move­ments mir­ror one anoth­er as they work toward the same goal. Despite Ter Borch’s young age at the time of this draw­ing, his use of flow­ing pen strokes and pro­nounced appli­ca­tion of wash demon­strate the artist’s firm com­mand of line and tone.

Win­ter Scene

Jacob Cats, Dutch, 1741 – 1799, Win­ter Scene, c. 1780-90, black chalk with brown wash. The Peck Col­lec­tion, 2017.1.104

See Win­ter Scene in more detail here. 

In this high­ly fin­ished draw­ing, Jacob Cats presents an inven­to­ry of var­i­ous win­ter pas­times. As our eye is drawn into the scene across the ice-bound plank and boat, the com­po­si­tion unfolds in a zigzag pat­tern over a vast body of frozen water, reveal­ing indi­vid­ual moments: a seat­ed man puts on his skates; a woman steps into a sled with the help of her com­pan­ion; a man pulls goods on a wood­en cart toward land; and men ice fish with their dog. Oth­ers in the dis­tance skate, ride in sleighs, and enjoy a rest at a large refresh­ment tent. Cre­at­ed in the late eigh­teenth cen­tu­ry, this draw­ing is an excel­lent exam­ple of the revived inter­est of sev­en­teenth-cen­tu­ry win­ter imagery. 

27 Octo­ber 2018 — 20 Jan­u­ary 2019