Scene on the ice next to a city in Avercamp

Scene on the ice next to a city in Avercamp
Scene on the ice next to a city in Avercamp

The painter Hendrick Avercamp (1585 – 1634) was known at the time as “The Deaf-Mute of Kampen”. Obviously because of his lack of hearing and speech, and because he lived for a large part of his life in that small Dutch city, where his father worked as an apothecary.

So the vast majority of his works are set in that place, where he painted typical countryside scenes, fishermen and also many of the harsh winters, like the one we see in this canvas made around the year 1615. From In fact, this theme of cold was one of his great speci alties, and despite what it may seem, these are not paintings made in the open air, but compositions recreated in his studio. Which does not prevent it from having a more than remarkable realism.


Scene on the ice next to an Avercamp town

In fact, this peculiar subgenre of winter landscapes was highly demanded in Northern Europe, and it was something that originally started when they wanted to make a whole calendar. However, the theme was gaining importance and we have received very interesting works such as Hunters in the snow by Pieter Brueghel, which by the way was always a reference for Avercamp's painting.

It is curious to see that in this painting, without being able to identify the specific place where it is located, there are endless scenes and stories within the painting. Some very much to the nationalist taste of themoment, when part of North Holland had already become independent from the Spanish Crown, and that is why you can see that the flag of that new territory.

Another scene is that of an old man away from the rest. He is sitting down and is certainly a classic personification of winter, just as some cattle skulls may have a similar meaning.

The repertoire of characters is very varied. Many of them skating on the ice and others seem to play some kind of archaic golf or hockey. There are them of all ages, both men and women, as well as high-class people and others more humble, especially fishermen. But in general, despite the cold weather, there is a festive atmosphere and freedom, as if they continued to celebrate that independence after the truce of 1609 in the War of Flanders.

And it must be taken into account that Avercamp made these works to put them up for sale. He did not do it to order, but he had to sell them to the citizens, and that is why this nationalist tone is distilled. And even the specialists say that his palette is based on the tones of the flag, that is red orange, white and blue.

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