Wednesday, 23 January 2013

The Art of Snow and Ice

I missed Tales of Winter: The Art of Snow and Ice yesterday and will be catching up on iPlayer Click the link in the title to access it - for all those who can access iPlayer - I ask no questions as to how!;)
Winter was not always beautiful. Until Pieter Bruegel painted Hunters in the Snow, the long bitter months had never been transformed into a thing of beauty. This documentary charts how mankind's ever-changing struggle with winter has been reflected in western art throughout the ages, resulting in images that are now amongst the greatest paintings of all time. With contributions from Grayson Perry, Will Self, Don McCullin and many others, the film takes an eclectic group of people from all walks of life out into the cold to reflect on the paintings that have come to define the art of snow and ice.
BBC - Tales of Winter: The Art of Snow and Ice

[UPDATE: I've now watched it and it's excellent!  It's available on iPlayer until 1:29AM Fri, 1 Feb 2013]

Hunters in the Snow / Jagers in de sneeuw (1565) by Pieter Bruegel (Brueghel) the Elder
oil on oak panel | 117 × 162 cm
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria
Bruegel's painting is part of a series of six paintings to reflect different seasons of the year - of which only five survive.

This painting represents the bleak and yet beautiful winter countryside in January.  Both hunters and dogs enliven the scene despite being obvious weary and downcast by a hunt which has obviously produced little.  In the background is a scene of snow and ice and that peculiar green grey sky which only appears in the depths of winter.  The trees are skeletal and any leaves are shrivelled and dried out in the cold.  The people and animals are all dark colours and are not much more than shapes against the cold background.

It's odd how a smidgen of orange draws our eye to the side of the painting and the roaring fire outside the inn - and I always wonder why it's outside and what they are doing.  On the one hand they might be preparing food - on the other do they really need a fire burning like that to prepare food?

When we used to have this a reproduction of this painting at school I was always preoccupied with working out what all the tiny people were up to - such as the woman towing another on a sled in the bottom right hand corner.

For me Breugel's paintings always demonstrate how much more we look at countryside when it includes people who are doing things - and not just there to give a sense of scale.

2 comments:

Anns Art said...

I watched that programme too, absorbing to say the least.

Mary McAndrew said...

I wish I could view it, but it won't let anyone outside the UK see it. I hate when BBC does that, they have so many fascinating shows!

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