Articles and Features

Scenes of Winter in Modern and Contemporary Art

All of a sudden it’s December again, Christmas is around the corner, and everyone is excited for the first snow to fall. Countless artists have paid a tribute to these beautiful, white winter months in their artworks. The following is a list of some of the most affecting winter scenes or winter-inspired artworks by important modern and contemporary artists.

Hendrick Avercamp - Winter Landscape with Ice Skaters, 1608

Though he is no modern or contemporary artist, Hendrick Avercamp’s prolific body of work in the 17th century influenced many artists capturing winter landscapes after him. The Dutch 17th century painter was nicknamed “De Stomme van Kampen” (The Mute of Kampen) because he was deaf and mute. Despite these setbacks, Avercamp became a successful artist, famous for his portrayal of the Netherlands in winter, often featuring people skating on the canals and lakes.

Hendrick Avercamp - Winter Landscape with Ice Skaters

Claude Monet - Winter Sun, Lavacourt, 1879-1880

In 1878, the Monet family moved to Vétheuil, on the banks of the Seine. From there, Claude Monet had a magnificent view of a bend in the river and the hamlet Lavacourt on the opposite shore. In winter, the sun would set behind Lavacourt, creating beautiful dramatic colours contrasting with the thick layers of ice and snow. The extreme weather conditions in winter fascinated Monet and inspired him to do many winter paintings in this period.

Claude Monet - Winter Sun, Lavacourt

Edvard Munch - Winter, 1889

Munch once said that he had always suffered a great deal of anxiety and anguish, ever since he could remember. Painting was a way for him to express these feelings and find a place for them. His winter landscapes are filled with a heavy silence and loneliness, yet there is also something peaceful and meditative about them. This painting, Winter, plays with the contrast between the dark forest and the bright snow, and there are footprints in the snow. Whom they belong to remains unknown. Robert Frost’s 1922 poem “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening” comes to mind here:

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep,
and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep…”

Edvard Munch - Winter

Wassily Kandinsky - Winter Landscape, 1909

Wassily Kandinsky‘s Winter Landscape was painted one year before he created his first truly abstract painting. He uses colours like pink, blue and yellow to depict his first impressions of the snowy landscape beneath a setting sun. Though you can still clearly make out the house, the road and the trees, it is clear that Kandinsky is already starting to move towards abstraction in this period.

Wassily Kandinsky - Winter Landscape

Helen Frankenthaler - Winter Hunt, 1958

American abstract expressionist artist Helen Frankenthaler’s “Winter Hunt” is a raw whirlwind of a painting in which you can see an abstracted stroke of a black fox surrounded by animated swirls and sweeps – reds, browns and greys on a white background, the snow, perhaps. The painting is tragic and simultaneously electrifying.

Helen Frankenthaler - Winter Hunt

Anselm Kiefer - Winter Landscape, 1970

In Kiefer’s version of the winter landscape, the disembodied head of a woman rises above a roughly ploughed field blanketed in snow. The snow is spotted with blood. The woman and her blood tainting the snow symbolise the land which is stained by the events of human history. Kiefer’s preoccupation with Germany’s Nazi history is reflected clearly in this melancholic painting.

Anselm Kiefer - Winter Landscape

Peter Doig - Ski Jacket, 1994

Doig created this painting based on a photograph of learner skiers on a Japanese mountain. Doig explains that “Ski Jacket” is about the awkwardness of learning to ski, before you learn how to control yourself – something he thinks is also true for painting, as it takes time to control the paint. He was fascinated with the way the light changes in the mountains, how we perceive the surroundings through coloured snow goggles, and he worked with these different hues in the painting.

Peter Doig - Ski Jacket