Winter landscapes


The first time I contemplated the beauty of a snow-covered landscape was when I read about the painting Hunters in the Snow. As the author of that essay beautifully writes:

What fascinated me initially about Hunters in the Snow is
that it made me feel cold just looking at it. Looking at this painting
is like standing in an open doorway and looking out at a wintery
landscape. You can see your breath when you look at the painting, you
can feel the bitter chill on your cheeks. The colors are harsh – black,
white, blue-grey – the colors of a world that has not seen warmth or
sunlight for a very long time. The sky is as flat and unforgiving as
the sheets of ice covering the rivers and lakes in the valley. The
trees, spidery and bare, jut lifelessly from the frozen ground, and the
wiry brown tendrils of the plant in the foreground are being smothered
by snow.

Such keen observation, I found, was possible only through a picture; standing in the cold I could think of little else but how to get warm. And photographing such landscapes turns out more difficult than I would like it to be.


I spent fifteen minutes on the terrace of a restaurant we stopped at while on the road in Switzerland last month. The bleak wintery landscape seemed otherworldly. Like Hunters in the Snow.



3 thoughts on “Winter landscapes

  1. Bruegel’s “Hunters in the Snow” is the most precious painting to me in the wide world. When I saw it, for the first time, in Vienna, I got a lump in my throat. I had loved it for too long, and it did not disappoint.

    You evoke the mood and details of that masterwork very well here. The sweep of the land, the craggy horizon, and human effort etched out against the snow-blanket. The photos answer very well to the painting.

    You know what else is wonderful? “The Return of the Herd” by the same artist, and once, I passed by a farm (in North Carolina) that brought that tableau to life, too.

  2. Teju Cole: You make me want to go to Vienna again (I missed the Kunsthistorisches museum when I was there a few years back). Perhaps this Easter would be a good time for a visit.

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