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Hendrick Avercamp, A Winter Scene with Skaters near a Castle

Key facts
Full title A Winter Scene with Skaters near a Castle
Artist Hendrick Avercamp
Artist dates 1585 - 1634
Date made about 1608-9
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 40.7 × 40.7 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Bought, 1891
Inventory number NG1346
Location Room 16
Collection Main Collection
A Winter Scene with Skaters near a Castle
Hendrick Avercamp

Seventeenth-century Dutch winters were notorious for their Arctic cold, with canals and rivers frozen over. In the little town that Avercamp takes us to everyone is out on the ice, making the best of it: working, playing, showing off, laughing, complaining, falling over or just about managing to stand up. Boats are frozen in, horses pull sleighs over the ice. The luscious pink castle looks almost like a giant, iced Christmas cake.

We look down from a height, so that the view of the town and beyond is wide and open. Each tiny figure is no bigger than a fingernail, yet Avercamp shows their personalities and, even if they have their backs to us, the story they have to tell.

Hendrick Avercamp led the way in making pictures of ‘life on the ice’. His career began at the time the Little Ice Age hit Northern Europe. He spent his life producing these winter pictures and only rarely left his town of Kampen – though the place in this painting is an imaginary town.

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