Monday, 1 June 2015

Winter Landscape with Ice Skaters

I received Peter Greenaway’s 2012 film Goltzius and the Pelican Company in the post today and it reminded me of my visit to Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum last year - the connection being Rembrandt’s extraordinary painting The Night Watch (which I stood in the thrall of - it’s quite huge!). Another painting that I was excited to see at the Rijksmuseum, although initially for the wrong reason, was Dutch painter Hendrick Avercamp’s Winter Landscape with Ice Skaters, from 1608 or thereabouts. I mistakenly thought this was the painting seen in Tarkovsky’s Mirror (that would be Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s Winter Landscape with Skaters and a Bird Trap but despite my mix-up, I’ve become very fond of Avercamp’s winter scene, teeming with people out on the frozen canal, skating on the ice, playing hockey or simply going about their business. Here Comes Everybody! as Joyce might have said. When you take in the whole painting all at once one can almost hear the cacophony of 17th century life. But it's picking out the small details that I enjoy, microcosmic moments that Avercamp has added, sometimes mischievously to the canvas - a dog and some crows picking at a carcass, a old beggar tapping some finely tailored gentry, a man defecating against a tree, a bucket retrieving water from a hole carved in the ice... Wonderful stuff. The painting can be viewed in considerable detail on the Rijksmuseum's website or better still, if you find yourself in Amsterdam, be sure and pay it a visit.

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