Hendrik Avercamp was a Dutch Painter between the years of 1585 and 1634. He is recognized for his winter paintings and his paintings of skating scenes. Typically speaking, I love the Dutch painters. One of my favorite painters Vincent Van Gogh is Dutch, but he lived a long time after Avercamp. I love the Dutch landscape painter Jacob Ruisdael, who lived near the same time as Avercamp, and I love the bravura of the Dutch brushstroke in Dutch painters like Frans Hals and Rembrandt. Both Hals and Rembrandt came slightly little later, but Avercamp leads the way. Avercamp’s work is also a bit like that of Pieter Bruegel the Elder.

This is what the National Gallery says about Avercamp:

“His carefully characterised groups of small figures are drawn together in the paintings through subtly graduated colour. His pictures were composed in the studio from acutely observed watercolour drawings.” The National Gallery in London

 watercolor study


Winter landscape with skaters playing kolf [a type of golf]. 1600-1634. Brush in watercolor and gouache, over graphite.

In this landscape study or watercolor sketch, we are able to see that the people in Avercamp’s ice worlds are from about the same era as the Pilgrims who came to America. From this image, we also begin to understand that ice skating has bee popular for at least hundreds of years.

In Avercamp’s Gouache over Pencil Study–which is the more finished of the sketches, we are able to see the faces and the costumes of the people in the painting. But that is not typically the case with Avercamp’s large, finished oils. This is actually only a segment of Avercamp’s oil painting: Winter Landscape with Ice Skaters , which was painted in about 1608. I have zoomed in so that you can see that the people are doing all sorts of things on the ice. Some are simply skating. Some are playing kolf, which, as I said before, is a type of golf. Some of the people seem to be trying to break a boat away from the ice, and some are being pulled across the ice by a horse and sleigh. Although you see many people in this segment, you can’t see any of the people clearly. None of the figures is a clear center of interest.

In Avercamp’s full paintings,

Here is another view of the same scene, but it is a bit more reduced. Thus, we see more of the scene, which includes a town.

When we see the full painting, we begin to visualize how Avercamp is like Bruegel. The grayness of the sky becomes a major player in the scene, and the buildings of he community do, too. The people seem almost ant-like, and they have merely been recorded in a moment of a day.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder – Hunters in the Snow

Rembrandt was a few years younger than Avercamp, but he lived and painted in the same area.

It might also  help you to recall that In 1606, Rembrandt was born in the Netherlands, and in 1662, he also died in Amsterdam. Rembrandt was slightly younger than Avercamp, but he lived and painted in the same area.

This is the first of what I hope will become a regular series of very short snippets of art history. I am calling this series: Looking Through the Eyes of Great Art. Look for more features here as well as on my YouTube channel.

©Jacki Kellum March 26, 2017