Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Great Snow Paintings - The Results Are In!

Many of you wrote to me on and off this blog with your nominations for great painters of snow and the greatest snow paintings ever. Despite the voluminous candidates, I wouldn't presume to crown (with laurel of course) any one artist the best snow painter -  there are just too many choices and too many possible definitions of what goes into a "great" snow painting.

That said, there does seem to be some consensus over who some of the front runners are.

Based largely on your responses to the selection proffered in my previous post, ladies and gentlemen of the academy, I give you The A-LIST (in roughly chronological order).

Casper David Friedrich
Claude Monet
Lowell Birge Harrison
Charles Warren Eaton
Walter Launt Palmer
Sydney Laurence
Emile Gruppe
Aldro Hibbard
Willard Metcalf
George Sotter
Edward Redfield
Andrew Wyeth
William Thon
Stapleton Kearns
T. Allen Lawson

Casper David Friedrich
While not technically a snow painting (or even a "winter" painting), Casper David Friedrich's "Sea of Ice" rocks the Romantic doom-and-gloom side of things.

Casper David Friedrich, The Sea of Ice, also called The Wreck of Hope, 1823-24
This painting used to be called "The Wreck of Hope," which does a slightly better job of clueing us in to what it's actually a painting of. If you click it for a larger image or just look very closely, to the right of the giant ice shards thrusting into the sky in the center you'll spot the tiny smashed stern and masts of an expedition ship being mercilessly crushed to splinters by the indifferent ice of the Pole. Now that's cold!

Monet and the Impressionists
Snow painting came into its own through Impressionism, not surprising given the style's emphasis on light and color. Many a Monet painting might have made the cut, such as the frosty Snow Near Honfleur (1867), or this one or any of the beauties here. I wonder if Monet was among the first to paint snow shadows an emphatic blue (which, of course, they often are).

The one that got the most votes was Monet's 1868 painting, The Magpie.

Monet, The Magpie, 1867

Impressionist Pissarro, too, warmed up rather well to the theme. 

Camille Pissarro, Cottage at Pontoise in the Snow 1879

On the topic of French snow, there's this entry by Cezanne, notable for the way his directional, flattened-picture-plane composition comes to the fore in the starker palette:

Paul Cezanne, Melting Snow at Fontainebleau (thanks is due to Grant Taylor)

New England painter Walter Launt Palmer (1854-1932) tops many an artist's list of masterful snow painters, and it's easy to see why. I had a Palmer in the previous post, one of many I found here. Here's another couple of them for good measure.

Walter Launt Palmer, The Early Snow

Walter Launt Palmer, Snow Covered Landscape

Walter "The Snowman" Palmer

Palmer's contemporary, Tonalist Charles Warren Eaton, produced many (though not as many) beautiful snow scenes as well.

Charles Warren Eaton, Winter Night, 1883

Canadian Tom Thomson could kick out a variety of killer snow scenes.

Tom Thomson 
Tom Thomson, Melting Snow

As could his countryman, Clarence Gagnon, as this moody beauty shows (thanks to Donald Jurney).

Clarence Gagnon, Furrows in the Snow
The winter landscapes of American Impressionist Willard Metcalf (1858-1925) show how deftly this painter could design his compositions, many of which balance sloping horizontals with counter-curving diagonals and crescents that "bring you into and move you around the painting" with clarity and force.

Willard Metcalf, Cornish Hills (that's Cornish, New Hampshire)
Willie Metcalf, Winter's Promise (I think)

Willie Metcalf (aka "Metty"), Winter in New Hampshire
Williard Leroy Metcalf - another Cornish snowscape

Aldro Hibbard (1886-1972) made a ridiculous number of gorgeous and rather brawny New England winter landscapes. Here are just three.

Hibbard Gorgeousness I

Hibbard Gorgeousness II

Hibbard Gorgeousness III
Aldro "Paint Like a Man!" Hibbard

American painter Sydney Laurence (1865–1940) moved to Alaska, presumably to be able to paint snow year-round. He's known for Romantic images such as this:

Sydney Laurence, Mt. McKinley

But personally I like better some of his paintings with a more subdued palette, like this one:

Sydney Laurence, Northern Lights

Pennsylvania Impressionist George Sotter (1879-1953) painted some fine winter nocturnes. Here's a rather lovely and quiet one.

George Sotter, Moonlight, Bucks County - Thanks to Beaman Cole for Sotter and Laurence 

Edward Willis Redfield (1869-1965) is another Pennsylvania Impressionist devoted to snow. Here are two beauties very much in line with his life's work.

Edward Willis Redfield, Woodland Brook, c. 1914

E.W. Redfield - thanks due to D. Jurney and B. Cole

Emile Gruppe made snow paintings in Vermont when he wasn't painting the fishing scene in Rockport.

A Gruppe Snowscape (thanks Ann Seago)

Andrew Wyeth can't be beaten for the sheer scrappiness of the ragged New England snowscape.

Andrew Wyeth - Shredded Wheat (honestly!)

Lest we begin to think the New England countryside is the only place anyone goes to paint snow, here's one of numerous Childe Hassam wintry city paintings.

Childe Hassam, Winter Afternoon, New York, 1900

Among our contemporaries, T. Allen Lawson, Stapleton Kearns, and the usual suspects (Aspevig, Christensen, Whitcomb, Schmid) all create very fine plein air and Impressionist style snow paintings.

Carol O'Malia, a painter I wasn't aware of has a page full of large yet understated works that foreground snow shadows here (thanks to Jamie Kirkland).

Carol O'Malia, Unbraid, 60" x 72"

Maine painter William Thon (1906-2000) is an interesting one whom I don't know enough about. (Thanks to Leslie Lewis)

William Thon, February Snow, 1977

Stapleton Kearns earns a special mention. In addition to regularly chasing the Hibbardian snow scene himself, he hosts Snowcamp, an intrepid winter plein air painting workshop in New Hampshire every winter.

Snowy barnyard paintings by Stapleton Kearns

T. Allen Lawson came up a lot, possibly because he lives not far from here. You can see a good many of his winter landscapes here. I happened upon the following two to share with you.

T. Allen Lawson, At the Dance
T. Allen Lawson, February's Burden (thanks to Mary Eikson for this one)

Thanks to all for your suggestions. I think I missed a few, and I know there are still a lot more out there than I'm aware of. Please feel free to enlighten me.

And to all a good night. (Max, 6, with Hibbard)


  1. What a wonderful gallery of snow paintings to start my day- thanks so much!!!

  2. Thanks so much for sharing all these amazing paintings. To mention yet another artist, there's Quang Ho in Denver, Co. He's done some amazing snow paintings.

    1. Thanks so much, Ann - I'm collecting images now for yet another snow painting post, and if I do it, I'll certainly include Ho.

  3. A wonderful selection, I have enjoyed viewing them, thank you.

  4. Enjoyed the snow show..... Great job!

  5. George Bellows was also a fantastic painter of snow scenes: https://www.google.com/search?q=George+Bellows+paintings+of+snow&client=firefox-a&hs=jYJ&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&tbm=isch&source=iu&imgil=IG8Y70BwX7ImQM%253A%253Bhttps%253A%252F%252Fencrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com%252Fimages%253Fq%253Dtbn%253AANd9GcQ0r3AXMC00UzuEGMvpfOHRbIDEZGa9nsMxGiHofdblHtSN889QNQ%253B1151%253B812%253B3Pro9fFeHsbalM%253Bhttp%25253A%25252F%25252Fcommons.wikimedia.org%25252Fwiki%25252FFile%25253ABellows_George_A_Morning_Snow_Hudson_River_1910.jpg&sa=X&ei=5uSyUtKSGK_MsQT5h4LACA&ved=0CDAQ9QEwAA&biw=1024&bih=597#facrc=_&imgdii=_&imgrc=xruNHJfUpA55fM%3A%3BwVGSCEfoEcEEcM%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.1artclub.com%252Fuploads%252F15-0202.jpg%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.1artclub.com%252Fsnow-capped-mountains-by-george-wesley-bellows%252F%3B500%3B339

    1. Ooo I'm sure you're right Julie - I bet Bellows could bring it... stay tuned for an update!

  6. Hey Chris - loved the images!
    A couple other current painters who work in a realist vein and do snow well are Michael Godfrey https://www.facebook.com/MichaelGodfreyFineArt
    and Renato Muccillo
    Dennis Sheehan has also done some amazing snow paintings
    I can email images of my favorites if that would be helpful.

  7. I love thematic groupings like this one. Many great pieces by artists I wasn't familiar with, but whom I'll looking up for days. Thanks! Tom

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