|Hunters in the Snow by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1565)|
Winter scenes, technically more challenging than summer ones, were relatively
rare in western art until the early Renaissance. One of six panels representing the
seasons (though only five survive), Bruegel’s vastly detailed masterpiece marks a
major shift from symbolic representation of the seasons, the previous European
tradition, to an exclusively secular scene. It is a fine winter day, and townsfolk are
skating and playing hockey, but the hunt has not gone well.
The hounds look exhausted, and the hunters have just a single fox among them.
|The Magpie by Claude Monet (1868-69)|
Monet was a master of the winter scene – he painted more than 100 of them,
and when Edouard Manet saw the Impressionist’s snowscapes he abandoned
any effort to make his own. This is Monet’s largest winter painting, depicting
a single black bird on a fence in Etretat – but what’s most thrilling about the work
is the shadows on the snow, done not in black but in a convention-shocking blue.
|The Drum Bridge and Yuhi Hill at Meguro by Hiroshige (1857)|
One of the images from One Hundred Views of Edo, his wildly popular series of
ukiyo-e prints, this image depicts a rare stone bridge in the city we now call Tokyo.
Captured at an oblique angle, the bridge seems dwarfed under the snow-filled sky,
and the passersby, shrouded under bamboo hats, get lost in the landscape.
Hiroshige’s winter scenes are perhaps his most sensitive; under snow,
even the big city feels impermanent.