Hendrick Avercamp – Master of the Ice Scene

By | October 18, 2017

Hendrick Avercamp – Master of the Ice Scene


Fun on the Ice Scene – 1610  Original: Het Mauritshuis – The Hague – The Netherlands

Anyone who masters outdoor skating knows that part of the fun on ice is being part of the crowds surrounding you.

And in this painting with a panoramic view of a village with a bridge over the canal, we can almost hear the noises of the skates scratching the ice and of the people of all ages enjoying winter fun, trying to impress each other with their best skating skills.

The question is how Hendrick Avercamp, the 17th-century Dutch master painter of ice scenes and other landscapes, was able to take part in the fun on the ice himself.
He was born deaf-mute and ice skating on the lakes and canals in Holland with a lot of people around created lots of chaos and avoiding collisions, as it does today, and must be quite difficult if you can’t hear.
It has been suggested that the guy in the foreground of the painting, who is standing still and looking at us in quite a naughty way, is Hendrick himself. As if he is saying: I can’t hear or talk, but I can observe the world around me in a very good way, as you can see looking at me now.
Today outdoor ice skating on natural ice is much rarer than in Avercamps time, as he was born at the end of the 16th-century, which was one of the coldest periods of the Little Ice Age.

Hendrick Avercamp was born in Amsterdam, moved to Kampen with his parents at the age of one and started drawing lessons at the age of 12. When he was 18, his tutor, like his father and brother, passed away as result of the plague, and he moved back to Amsterdam to live with an uncle. He went to study with the Danish painter Pieter Isaacsz and started to study the works of Peter Bruegel the Elder and Gilles van Coninxloo.
He moved back to Kampen, likely in 1607, and specialised in the painting of landscapes. Many of his paintings featured scenes of crowds ice skating on frozen lakes and canals, which he painted in his studio after the sketches he made in winter.

Avercamps work became very sought after, and besides paintings, he sold tinted watercolour drawings for the albums of collectors.
His paintings are known for the technique of aerial perspective, which he accomplished by adding front objects and the change of colour in the distance.

Hendrick Avercamp died in Kampen in 1634.

Around 100 paintings of Avercamp are still known today and can be seen in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Mauritshuis in The Hague and museums in Kampen and Zwolle in Holland.
Besides paintings we can still admire some of his fabulous drawings, such as Fishermen by Moonlight, drawn in brown and black ink on paper with deck paint.


Very good oil painting reproductions by ElitePaintings (left) and ArtOyster

Our impression is that ElitePaintings comes closest to the original in the overall “icy” colours.
GreatBIGCanvas sells a very detailed reproduction, with the colouring being close to the original also, depending on the lighting of the painting.
See below how the original is on display in The Mauritshuis in the Netherlands.

Fishermen by Moonlight
is on display in The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam

Compare the reproductions by 1stArtGallery and ElitePaintings, as 1stArtGallery comes much closer to the moonlight atmosphere of the original drawing.

Fun on the Ice Scene – 1610  Original: Het Mauritshuis – The Hague – The Netherlands


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