In the first exhibition devoted to Dutch landscape artist Hendrick Avercamp (15851634), scenes of ice skating, sleigh rides, and outdoor games on frozen canals and waterways bring to life the lively pastimes and day-to-day bustle of the Golden Age of the Dutch Republic. On view in the West Building Dutch Cabinet Galleries at the National Gallery of Art
, Washington, from March 21 through July 5, 2010, Hendrick Avercamp: The Little Ice Age will feature some 15 paintings and 15 drawings that capture the harsh winters of the period and the activities they made possible.
"Avercamp's images capture a timeless quality that resonates to this day, making his winter landscapes quintessential representations of 17th-century Holland," said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art. "We are grateful to the museums and private collectors in Europe and the United States who graciously agreed to lend their delicate Avercamp paintings and drawings for the exhibition."
Hendrick Avercamp (15851634)
Hendrick Avercamp was born in Amsterdam, but he lived and worked in Kampen, far removed from the artistic centers of Amsterdam and Haarlem. He was known to contemporaries as the "Stomme van Kampen" (Mute of Kampen), for he was not able to speak or (quite probably) to hear. He had a sharp eye for visual anecdote andalthough he painted in a style that reflected the 16th-century pictorial traditions of winter scenes by Pieter Bruegel the Elderhis cast of characters and their activities became the primary focus of his work. Avercamp was the first artist to specialize in winter landscapes that feature people enjoying themselves on the ice, thus making the "ice scene" a genre in its own right.
Avercamp's paintings and drawings will be shown in the intimate Dutch Cabinet Galleries. The works in the exhibitiontheatrical settings of life on the icereveal a tremendous diversity of subjects. They range from the hardships of winter, such as beggars trying to survive in the cold and women doing laundry in freezing water, to the more delightful possibilities of the cold: finely dressed couples swooping and whirling across the frozen expanse, gentlemen playing colf (a game combining aspects of golf and hockey), and children throwing snowballs and skating, with sleds swishing past. Within these winter scenes lies a record daily life unencumbered by statusas all classes formed one community on the ice.
Avercamp was also an outstanding draftsman who made individual figure studies that he utilized in his painted work as well as in richly colored drawings that he created as finished works of art. The exhibition will include several types of his drawings.
The Little Ice Age
Between 1300 and 1900 northern Europe was affected by a number of extremely severe winters, which often arrived early and lasted well into spring. The period between 1550 and 1650, the time in which Avercamp lived, is known as the Little Ice Age. Avercamp's first dated winter painting, A Winter Scene with Skaters near a Castle (c.1608-1609), follows one of the Little Ice Age's most severe winters, which left an enormous impression on the Dutch population.
Owing to events related to climate change and water pollution, Dutch canals are freezing more infrequently than in the past, decreasing the amount of natural ice for skating. In January 2009, however, canals froze for the first time in 12 years, bringing hundreds of thousands of skaters to the natural ice.