Hendrick Avercamp was one of the most popular painters of the “Dutch Golden Age,” a time period (around the 17th century) when art, science, and trade flourished in the Netherlands.
 
Avercamp, who was most likely deaf, specialized in painting winter scenes, when Dutch citizens enjoyed working and socializing on the country’s many frozen canals and rivers.
 
“Winter Landscape with Skaters” (1608) is a typically lovely example of Avercamp’s style. He uses formal artistic techniques and rich individual scenes to paint a picture of an entire community
 
Three major techniques create the illusion of space and depth in the painting. First, Avercamp has designed his painting as a triangle—the wide canal narrows as it disappears into the background at the top of the canvas. Second, the frosty landscape eventually blends into the white, wintry clouds in the background. Finally, the figures in the foreground (bottom of the canvas) are painted in precise detail, while the smaller figures in the background are mere sketches.
 
The incredible variety of individual scenes makes “Winter Landscape with Skaters” a slice-of-life depiction of the Netherlands in the 17th century. Women and men, young and old, rich and poor all mix and mingle in the sunny, snowy scene.
 
Instructional Ideas
 
Consult National Geography Standard 15.3 (4th grade): How physical systems affect human systems: People adapt to the conditions of the physical environment.
  • Discuss how people adapt to seasonal changes in the physical environment. Changes might be reflected by:
    • clothing
    • housing
    • food
    • recreation
    • transportation
  • Questions in the “Questions” tab explore some ways the physical environment and human systems in “Winter Landscape with Skaters” would change with the seasons.
  1. How would the physical environment in “Winter Landscape with Skaters” be different in a spring or summer setting?

  2. How would people’s clothes, transportation, and technology change in a spring or summer landscape?

  3. Art can often sometimes provide historians and scientists with clues about past climate and landscape. What clues do you think Avercamp offers about the Dutch winter of 1608? How do you think scientists would investigate these clues?

“Winter Landscape with Skaters” is a community portrait packed with individual scenes. Use our zoom feature (+ button) to see if you can spot these details:
  • little girl running to meet her father
  • skates with curled-up toes (a sign of luxury and wealth)
  • men carrying long fishing poles for ice-fishing
  • crows eating the rotting carcass of a cow
  • man who fell face-down on the ice
  • horse-drawn sledges (horses had to have special, sharp winter shoes in order to navigate the ice without slipping!)
  • richly dressed women ignoring a poor beggar
  • the artist’s signature (HAenricus Av)
  • man sitting down to put on his skates
  • man carrying a sheath of winter wheat
  • boy in a sledge pushed by his mother
  • onion-shaped dome of a church or town hall
  • man hacking a hole in the ice for ice-fishing
  • four men holding each other’s waists in a “line” of skaters
  • Dutch flag
  • people playing kolf—a popular combination of hockey and golf
  • fishing net hung up for the winter season
  • boat seeming to “sail” across the ice (based on a real Dutch vessel!)
  • someone’s bare bottom!
canal
Noun

artificial waterway.

canvas
Noun

heavy, woven cloth.

community
Noun

group of organisms or a social group interacting in a specific region under similar environmental conditions.

deaf
Adjective

unable to hear.

depict
Verb

to illustrate or show.

dozen
Noun

a group of 12.

Dutch
Adjective

coming from or having to do with the Netherlands (Holland).

flourish
Verb

to thrive or be successful.

Noun

thin coat of ice covering objects when the dew point is below freezing.

illusion
Noun

plan or occurrence that creates a false belief.

interact
Verb

to work with or meet.

Noun

the geographic features of a region.

mingle
Verb

to mix or combine with.

mute
Noun

person who doesn't speak.

precise
Adjective

exact.

slice-of-life
Phrase

natural or real representation of everyday experiences.

specialize
Verb

to study, work, or take an interest in one area of a larger field of ideas.

technique
Noun

method of doing something.

trade
Noun

buying, selling, or exchanging of goods and services.