In seventeenth-century Holland there was a fashion for depictions of winter scenes; this was a period of harsh winters that brought heavy snowfall and caused rivers to freeze over. This scene with people skating on a frozen river in Holland is similar to pictures made by Johan Barthold Jongkind, who was working in this older tradition in the 1860s, but is probably a forgery made by an imitator of Jongkind’s style.
Although Jongkind spent most of his working life in Paris, he returned to the Netherlands in 1855 and stayed there until 1860. He produced several views of his native Holland, which the imitator has tried to evoke in this picture. The limited colour palette of muted greys and the short, rapid brushstrokes used to apply the paint are also evocative of Jongkind’s pictures.
People are skating on a frozen river, with some couples huddled together for warmth. The dark silhouettes of windmills and buildings frame the setting sun. There was a fashion in seventeenth-century Holland for depictions of winter scenes; this was a period of harsh winters that brought heavy snowfall and caused rivers to freeze over. Artists such as Hendrick Avercamp were eager to capture the scenes of people trying to make the most of the bitter weather by skating and playing kolf, an early form of golf on the ice that was incredibly popular at this time.
This picture has been painted in the style of Johan Barthold Jongkind, who was working in this older tradition in the 1860s, but it is probably a forgery, painted by a later imitator who signed it with Jongkind’s name in the lower left corner. Jongkind was born in Latrop in Holland, but he spent most of his working life in Paris, where his paintings drew the attention of the young Impressionists, including Alfred Sisley and Claude Monet. Jongkind returned to his native Netherlands in 1855 and remained there for five years. It was after his time in Holland that he produced numerous scenes of Dutch life.
A common feature of Jongkind’s paintings is a vast sky, depicted on a horizontal canvas and stretching over a large part of the composition. The painter of this picture has used a limited colour palette of predominately muted greys, with a subtle yellow tone for the sun. Thick impasto is particularly prominent in the depiction of the hazy, pale sun, conveying the atmosphere of a bleak winter’s day, with heavy grey clouds obscuring the light. Other details, such as the trees to the left and the windmill on the far right of the composition, are very thinly painted with short, quick brushstrokes.
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