Friday, 24 February 2017

My Favourite Famous Winter Paintings

Blog 8

Before I came to Canada, I had not seen too many winter paintings. Winter is not such an interesting season to paint in many European countries, including most of Germany. I was born in Hesse and the winters bring lots of rain and gray days. I got my first view of Canadian art at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg in 1994. I was fascinated with the beauty and energy reflecting from the paintings. Until this day, I love the blue winter skies and the glistening snow, even though I am usually tired of winter by the end of February.

Here are my favourite winter paintings. Not surprisingly many Canadian paintings are part of my list. One of my favourite painters of winter scenes is the Group of the Seven member Lawren Harris. While I respect his abstract works for his personal progress and modernism, I prefer the earlier works.

Due to copyright issues, I am not able to show you pictures of all the works as not all of them are already in the public domain. You will be able to find the images online but that still does not mean that you can legally post them in a blog.

1. Lawren Harris: Spruce and Snow, Northern Ontario
oil on canvas, 1916, 102.3 x 114.3 cm, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto

I love the mood that Lawren Harris sets in this painting. I feel the cold of the winter landscape brightened by the setting sun. While I love Lauren Harris's use of thick brushstrokes of complementary colour, this technique is not for me. I find it too painstakingly slow to place the short brushstrokes on the canvas.

To see the image please go to:

2. Lawren Harris: The Red House
oil on canvas, 1925

I love how the two trees frame the bright red house. The crisp white and blue create a fascinating contrast to the bright red of the house. While there seems to be no life in this picture, the branches of the trees make me think of long fingers pointing to the house. You can already notice Harris' increasing abstraction in this painting.

To see the image you can go to:

3. Lawren Harris: Snowfall
oil on canvas, 1920, 36 x 44 in

I saw this painting during the special exhibition “The Idea of North” at the Art Gallery of Ontario last summer. I love how Lawren Harris succeeds in creating a beautiful picture by wrapping the soft cover of snow around an old run-down house. His masterful use of complementary colours makes the image look bright despite the softly falling snow. The thick brushstrokes create a liveliness despite the fact that the house and street are deserted.

To see the image please go to:

4. Lawren Harris: Return from Church
oil on canvas, 101.8 x 122.3 cm, National Gallery of Canada

I am always intimidated by people in a landscape. I love how Lawren Harris uses simple shapes to give the illusion of people. The visible brushstrokes create a lot of energy in this otherwise calm painting. I admire his subtle use of bright red in some of the coats for added colour as well as his well planned use of complementary colours for the building.

To see the image please go to:

5. Lawren Harris: Old Houses, Toronto, Winter
oil, 1919. Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto

I love how Lauren Harris uses complementary colours to create this bright painting of an old house that has seen better days.

To see the image please go to: The image is part of the review.

6. Clarence Gagnon: Midnight Mass
oil on paper laid on wood, 1933, 18.8 x 22.7 cm, The Thomson Collection, Art Gallery of Ontario

I am fascinated by Gagnon's use of light to create mood in his painting “Midnight Mass”. I love the composition that is dominated by triangles, many of them pointing directly at the church.

To see the image you can go to:

7. Clarence Gagnon: After the Storm (Après la tempête)
ca. 1922, oil on panel, 6 1/4" x 9 1/4"

Again, I am fascinated by the play of light and shadow. The brightness of the painting reflects what I most love about the brisk winter days when the sun lets the snow sparkle and the light creates colourful shadows. The snow that is so thick, it is weighing down the fir trees. This is how I picture winter.

To see the image you can go to:

Claude Monet [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
8. Claude Monet: The Magpie
oil on canvas, 1868–1869, 89 cm × 130 cm (35 in × 51 in), Musée d'Orsay, Paris

Monet and fellow Impressionists painted the winter landscape to capture the natural effect of snow. The Magpie is one of more than 100 snowscapes produced by Monet. It is Monet's largest winter painting. A solitary black bird, a magpie, is perched on a gate as the light of the sun shines upon freshly fallen snow creating blue shadows. I just love the light in this picture and the blue of the shadows. The Impressionists were the first artists who used colour instead of black to suggest shadows making them look much more natural.

Franz Marc [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
9. Franz Marc: Dog Lying in the Snow
Oil on canvas, 1911, 62.5 × 105 cm, Städelscher Museums-Verein e.V., Frankfurt/Main

Franz Marc was convinced that animals were closer to God than human beings. He considered them purer in soul and therefore more beautiful. The dog lying in the snow seems to be in perfect harmony with its surroundings. When I look our pets, I have to agree with Marc's opinion. Our dog Alex and our cat Miko give us so much joy and unconditional love.

Paul Gauguin [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
10. Paul Gauguin, Breton Village in the Snow (Village breton sous la neige)
oil on canvas, 1894, 62 x 87 cm, Musée d'Orsay, Paris

Gauguin followed with this painting in the footsteps of many Impressionist painters who were fascinated by the effects the changing light and different weather conditions had on the snow-covered landscape. The painting shows a village seemingly drowning under the heavy snow. It is still undisturbed by traces of human life at the beginning of a new day. I love the simplified forms and visible brushstrokes.

I am sure that you are getting tired of all the snow we had over the last couple of weeks but it definitely makes the world look beautiful and bright. Hopefully, my blog is a nice farewell to the winter season. I am ready for warmer weather and the first signs of vegetation popping up between snow patches as harbingers of spring.

As March Break falls into next month, I dedicated next month’s blogs to experimenting with different gels and pastes. Some of the materials are not only great for artists but can be easily used with your children or grandchildren for some creative activities.

If you enjoy my blogs, please share them with family and friends. Thank you in advance for helping me to increase my audience.

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