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  • Monique Sliedrecht

Snowscape

Updated: Dec 19, 2022


From my window, I can see the yellow glow of the gritter passing by on the top road, its blinking light set against the still dark cobalt blue sky of the mid-winter dawn. The roads have been icy of late, so much so that the Postie had a little trouble getting up and down the lane to deliver mail and packages yesterday.


But now the snow in the far north is mostly gone, and there is cloud cover above which means there is less frost and chill in the air. Or so we hope.


While it has been difficult to keep warm in such glacial temperatures, I had to marvel at the beauty of the wintry days this last week.


I was in Edinburgh for work and instead of travelling back up on Wednesday, the trip was delayed a day while waiting for a snowstorm in the highlands to pass and the roads to clear. It was fairly smooth sailing then, thankfully, and the landscape was stunning, especially driving through the Cairngorm Mountains. Here are some photos I took from the car window:



Cairngorm Mountains, Scotland



I was reflecting on paintings of snowy landscapes. The artists that come immediately to my mind are the Canadian Group of Seven: Lawren Harris with his surreal mountaintops, Tom Thomson, AY Jackson who painted with my parent's neighbour in Ontario....

Mt. Lefroy, Lawren Harris




Winter Thaw in the Woods, Tom Thomson

Winter Charlevoix County, A.Y.Jackson, 1932-33



Yesterday I was chatting on Skype with my sister who lives in BC Canada. She and my niece and nephews went skating on the local indoor ice rink yesterday. I was recalling with her the times my friends and I would be out on the ice on the lakes in Ontario when I was younger. We’d spend hours out there on our skates.

Going to the place of my ancestry, I am reminded of the Dutch 17th century artist, Avercamp, who was nicknamed “De Stomme van Kampen” (The Mute of Kampen) because he was deaf and mute. Despite these setbacks, he became a successful artist, famous for his portrayals of the Netherlands in winter which often featured people skating on the canals and lakes.


My parents have spoken of the times when they could skate from one town to the next, stopping for a bowl of hot soup from a vendor along the way!



Winter Landscape with Ice Skaters, Hendrik Avercamp, c.1608



Skating on the canal in Kinderdijk, Netherlands


This naturally leads me on to the Flemish painter, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, the king of snow scenes. In his painting, Hunters in the Snow, there is a lot going on - people scavenge and toil, but skaters also skid with joy, a contrast that is both compelling and powerful.



Hunters in the Snow, Pieter Breugel the Elder, 1565




Continuing on to France we have the Impressionists who are always known for their depictions of light, reflected also on the blankets of snow that cover the landscape. I think this painting is beautiful.



The Magpie, Claude Monet, 1869

Heading north Edvard Munch from Norway was very familiar with the cold environment of Scandinavia. Here is his painting 'Winter' painted in 1889:



Winter, Edvard Munch, 1889


This colourful and wintry painting is by Russian artist, Vassily Kandinsky. It was painted just before he moved into his more abstract work.



Winter Landscape, Vassily Kandinsky, 1909




Swinging back round geographically and also thematically, I love some of the work by Peter Doig, who was born in Scotland, but lived most of his life in Canada. He now lives in Trinidad. Probably not a bad idea if you’re averse to the chill! A lot of his winter themed pieces are inspired by his time in Canada, like this one called 'Ski Jacket'.



Ski Jacket, Peter Doig, 1994


Having gone on a little winter journey, I'm back in Caithness and my studio. The lane down to my place has got extremely slippery and it is hard to walk. I'm having to take things literally one step at a time - not a bad way to be! I will end with this image of a combine piece I did last year.


Sending you warmest snowy greetings ❄️


A Winter's Voyage, Monique Sliedrecht, 2021

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