Winter Wonderland

Piete Bruegel Elder

The winter season is upon us, and snow has already started to fall from the sky, however not surprisingly it has again been milder than last year and not much ice has formed on the grounds yet.A warmer winter means bad news for our ever so considerate and uniquely well-mannered taxi drivers as people are more inclined to walk their way to various locations, while it means good news for dog owners like me who do not have to worry about winter shoes for our pets.

Winter is of course the season that sees more greeting cards being sold on the account of that merry imminent eve when young and old come together, whether religious or secular, to celebrate generosity and selflessness. For as long as we have had the existence of cards, we have had the need to supply images for the cards especially for holidays like Christmas, and over the years images on holiday cards have become an industry of their own with certain artists and graphic designers working exclusively on Christmas cards all year round.  

I would like to single out three images which I think would be ideal for Christmas cards, and considering the fact that I am a devout atheist, you can bet that I will not be picking works that are remotely chocolate boxy or religious in tone. So, if you were hoping for Thomas Kinkade like idealized winter scenes, I’m afraid I would have to disappoint you.

First painting is “Hunters in the Snow” by the Flemish Renaissance painter and printmaker Pieter Bruegel the Elder who is sometimes referred to as Peasant Bruegel because he depicted peasants lives predominantly. Painted in 1565 the work is also referred to as The Return of the Hunters as it portrays a group of hunters descending toward their village accompanied by their hunting dogs. The painting itself is monumental pieces of work which plays with the idea of civilization versus savagery. The hunters who kill and are violent by nature are returning to a place where there are no signs of primitive barbarism. Their hunt has been unsuccessful and they are tired, back bent, struggling to control their gait, resembling in many ways their dogs. At the same time down at the village there is modernism afoot. Children playing games and others ice skating with modern buildings surrounding them. The fire being lit at the left hand side might be referring to progress, and the crows resting on tree branches on the hunters’ side could be reinstating the idea of doomed activities men partake in. The right hand side of the painting where the village rests is more open and light, and the horizon takes the viewer deeper into the future where there is hope for improvement and better understanding.

The second work is “In the Woods” by the 19th century Canadian artist Tom Thomson who has been associated with the Group of Seven; however he was not a member of the group as he died before the group was formed, nevertheless his influence on Canadian art has been well documented. The painting in question was purchased by National Gallery of Canada in 1918 and it is truly a treasure worth seeing. The painting depicts woodland with trees blocking the way of any visitor and the viewer struggles to see beyond the obstruction. The snows on the grounds give the painting a chill factor which accompanied with the suffocating feeling one gets being denied access to proceed, makes one very aware of his or her position with respect to nature. Defenceless is a word which appropriately describes your feeling, yet there is hope and optimism presented by the sunlight which is allowed to peek through the tree branches. And there is the future to consider with the hint of mountains visible in the background, as if Thomson is saying don’t worry you will find a way through, however it might not be yet so patience is a virtue.

The final work I would like to bring to your attention is Le Moulin de la Galette Terrace and Observation Deck at the Moulin de Blute-Fin, Montmartre by Vincent Van Gogh painted in 1886. This painting represents what Van Gogh had been feeling before he embarked on his journey to Paris where he discovered a taste for colour and bold brushstrokes. This painting is Vincent prior to being bitten by Impressionism and Pointillism and has loneliness and alienation feeling to it. Vincent’s experience leading up to this point had been a very tragic one. He had spent his time observing poverty and abandonment of the underprivileged by the very society which was supposed to care for them. He saw himself as a prophet for the destitute, and his promise of salvation would come in the form of art. Yet, at this point he yearned for recognition and he detested the utter solitude gnawing at his insides.

In my view these three paintings would make wonderful card images for any art lover who is looking to enjoy something other than the usual over sentimentalized Christmas card. However if you think these works would be too sombre to send to your relatives and friend, I have here created an image which is so full of holiday cheer that I’m sure even your grandma would love, and it is free for all you Forget The Box readers to download and enjoy. However, I must state that even though I am permitting the private use of this image, the public copyrights belong to me and you should refrain from making an unscrupulous business venture out of this.

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