Sunday, 21 December 2014

BBC4 Tales of Winter: The Art of Snow and Ice

Tonight, BBC4 is repeating an excellent programme Tales of Winter: The Art of Snow and Ice which explores how the onset of winter has been depicted by Western painters across the centuries. The programme will be available on BBC iPlayer shortly after it is broadcast at 7.30-9.00pm.

If  you don't live in the UK and would still like to see it, I suggest you take a peek at YouTube and view the same programme in six films of 10 minutes.

The programme comprises several commentators, many of whom are wrapped up warmly and clutching reproductions of the paintings as they revisit places the artist knew and review how similar the painting is to what's there today. I'm a complete sucker for programmes like this and I'll definitely be watching!

Tales of Winter - The Art of Snow and Ice

  • Part 1 of 6 covering the very cold winters in the 16th century - including Brueghel's painting of Hunters in the Snow - the first ever painting of a landscape under snow - with comments by Grayson Perry and Jonathan Jones and a cartoon based on it by Peter Brookes
Hondius - Frost Fair 1684
A Frost Fair on the Thames at Temple Stairs (c. 1684) by Abraham Danielsz Hondius (Abraham de Hondt)
Caspar David Friedrich 002
The Abbey in the Oakwood by Caspar David Friedrich
  • Part 4 of 6 - continues with 
    • Ruskin's painting of waterfalls including "Le Cascade de la Folie, Chamonix
    • before moving on to the Impressionists' absorption with the colour of the snow effect "the illusive colour of the shadows in snow". The programme visits Vetheuil where Claude Monet lives when impoverished and where his wife became severely ill. It shows you the house he lived in when he had to choose between paint or medicine for his wife. 
    • It also include paintings of winter by the American Impressionist  painter Childe Hassam.  
    • Next it considers what is probably the first ever photograph of falling snow - "Winter, 5th Avenue" (1893) by Alfred Steiglitz and other photographs of "The Terminal", "The Flat Iron Building" and "The City of Ambitions"
  • Part 5 of 6 - focuses the contrast between rural and urban winters. Giovanni Segantini painted the Swiss mountains in all seasons including winter.  George Bellows, one of the Ashcan painters, paints the raw, bitter, cruel New York winter in The Lone Tenement and John Nash, a  Royal Academician and serving solider fighting in the Artist Rifles Batallion, paints the bitter winters of the First World War
Giovanni Segantini 002
Death (1898-99) by Giovanni Segantini (1858 – 1899)

George Bellows - The Lone Tenement (1909)
The Lone Tenement (1909) by George Bellows (1882 - 1925)

'over the Top'. 1st Artists' Rifles at Marcoing, 30th December 1917 Art.IWMART1656
Over the Top - 1st Artists' Rifles at Marcoing, 30th December 1917 by John Nash

I guess my only criticism of it is it presents a curiously Western European/American view of landscape painting in winter - and misses out the very significant contributions made by the Scandinavians, Eastern Europeans, Russians and Canadians.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

The view from Richmond Hill

One of the most famous views in the history of landscape painting is "The View from Richmond Hill". In the last it was liked so much that it's now the only view in the UK which is specifically protected by an Act of Parliament.

I've created a small website about it - The View from Richmond Hill - for those who want to know exactly where it is and what the view looks like - and some more about the artists associated with painting the view from the hill e.g.
  • Sir Joshua Reynolds whose home (Wick House on Richmond Hill) has this view, or 
  • JMW Turner who painted it several time or 
  • Jasper Francis Cropsey, the American landscape painter (Hudson River School) whose painting of the View of Richmond Hill recently sold at Bonhams in New York. Cropsey later produced a massive painting of the same view - some eight feet wide - based on this study (and presumably others he made at the same time).  This study is principally focused on the features of the landscape and doesn't have the figures seen in the later painting.
View of Richmond Hill - Jasper Francis Cropsey (1823-1900)
previously exhibited as Study for Richmond Hill in the Summer of 1862
oil on canvas 12 1/2 x 20 1/2in
sold 21st May 2014 for $50,000 at Bonhams
Back in 2010 I visited to see what all the fuss was about. Like many such views I've visited in the past - the trees have grown!

I found it very tricky to get a place where you got a decent view of the bend in the river without running into other problems - like trees obscuring the view.

This is my "failed" photographic view. It's a classic one - with the horizon bisecting the image! You can at least see the river and the fact it has a curve and an island and some boats on it - plus some water meadows next to it!

The view from Richmond Hill - in 2010
This local photographer has had a go at showing us what is the magic of this place in this video

I'm thinking maybe a visit in winter when there are no leaves might prove more fruitful - although it would appear this brings different challenges