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Why a deaf-mute painter of the late middle Ages painted only winter landscapes: Hendrik Averkamp

Many readers often associate the noun “winter” with the adjective “Russian”. Especially when it comes to painting, the names of Russian classical artists Ivan Shishkin, Boris Kustodiev, and Igor Grabar immediately come to mind… But today you will have the opportunity to see an amazing selection of winter landscapes by the Dutch painter Hendrik Averkamp, who worked in the first half of the 17th century,in the late middle ages.Flipping through the biography pages
Avercamp Hendrik, nicknamed “the Mute of Kampen”, (1585-1634), was a Dutch Baroque painter. Hendrik Averkamp was born in Amsterdam, and a year later his family moved to Kampen, where Henrik’s father was appointed city pharmacist. The future artist was born deaf and dumb for which he later received his nickname “the Mute of Kampen”. My mother, the daughter of a famous scientist at that time, taught my son to write and draw, so that he could later Express his childhood feelings in drawings. And the boy was very talented at it. Therefore, the parents decided to give their twelve-year-old son as an apprentice to a drawing teacher. However, his studies did not last long, the master soon died of the plague.
At the age of eighteen, averkamp went to Amsterdam, where He began to learn the basics of painting from the Danish portrait artist Peter Izaksa. With portraits, the young artist did not go well, but he was completely absorbed in genre and landscape themes, which he will devote all his work to in the future. The inability to sense this world with the help of hearing has made his sense of color and shape extremely acute, as well as his ability to notice the smallest details in multi-figure compositions.
Having learned the wisdom of painting, the 29-year-old young artist returned to his small provincial town of Kampen, where he remained to live and work until his death in 1634. In the last years of his life, the deaf-mute artist taught painting to his nephew Barent Averkamp, who later also became a painter of mainly winter urban and rural landscapes.

According to experts, in his early works, the influence of the Flemish school, in particular, the landscape painter Giliss van Koninksloo, is very noticeable. A later period was marked by the inheritance of the manner and style of Pieter Bruegel the Elder. But at the same time, the artist was able to create his own author’s handwriting, which formed the basis for the formation of a realistic direction in Dutch art. By the way, until the beginning of the 17th century, the dominant Flemish school of painting, realism was completely unusual. And it was Hendrik who was one of the first who brought landscape painting of this school closer to realism.

Winter landscapes – the only subject of the artist’s work

In winter, Islimited, 1613. The size of the painting is 24 x 35 cm, wood, oil.(In the picture, the life and leisure of the population of the small town of Eiselmeiden on an island near Kampen.

In winter, Islimited, 1613. The size of the painting is 24 x 35 cm, wood, oil.(In the picture, the life and leisure of the population of the small town of Eiselmeiden on an island near Kampen.
Hendrik Averkamp became famous for his love of depicting winter landscapes, everyday scenes in snow-covered coastal villages, and entertainment of citizens on ice-bound rivers. These rural winter landscapes made the artist widely known throughout the Netherlands, they were very popular among the burghers and among ordinary citizens. His work was in demand during his lifetime and brought a solid income.

Why did the winter landscape attract the Dutchman so much throughout his life?
The artist’s passion can be explained by his childhood and youth Hobbies, when he and his parents went skating on a frozen pond in cold winters. And to this we must add that the last quarter of the 16th century, during which the Dutch painter was born and spent his childhood, was one of the coldest climatic periods in the history of not only the Netherlands, but also Western Europe. It was even called the “little ice age”in historical sources.
It was then that all the rivers and lakes froze for a long time and deep, and the winters were extremely snowy. But people continued to live, work and, of course, have fun, adding to their everyday life skating and sledding, a game similar to modern hockey and many other entertainment that can be seen by carefully looking at the picture plane of any of the artist’s paintings. The artist did not just populate his landscapes with a variety of characters, he laid a certain plot in each of his works. Curiously, the painter in his paintings artfully hid several funny stories and anecdotes.

Painting skills of the Dutch master

The artist created his paintings on small boards, using oil paint. For reference, I would like to say that the canvas as the basis of painting in Western Europe began to be used since the beginning of the 16th century. The Florentine and Venetian painters were the first to appreciate the advantages of this material. Much later, artists of the Northern schools began to use canvas.

Nevertheless, in his paintings on wood, Hendrik managed to achieve high skill, depicting the bluish-silver surface of ice-covered channels and rivers, the heavenly winter haze. Averkamp was subtly able to convey the depth of space, using an atmospheric perspective in the form of a light nebula created by moist frosty air. It was he who was the first among Dutch artists to apply the laws of atmospheric perspective in his work, which made it possible to maximize the spatial panorama of small-sized paintings by the artist. And this is due to the change in the color of objects and images depending on the proximity to the horizon line. In short, the artist wrote as he sees the human eye, that is, as realistic as possible.

Averkamp liked to paint the sky, almost always overcast, overcast, usually occupying almost half of the entire picture. And, as a rule, always in the background are boats frozen in the water, large and small vessels with tilted masts.

In the painting “skating”, the artist introduces the viewer to one of the remarkable aspects of Dutch life: frozen winter channels become a favorite winter entertainment place for residents of coastal villages. Here you can see skating and sledding, driving a ball with a stick, transporting goods, fishing in the hole. Children and adults, smartly dressed ladies and gentlemen, ordinary people in modest clothes, it seems, all the locals came out on the icy surface of the channel. A special place in the paintings is occupied by various buildings, towers, fortresses, and some windmills.
Modest, soft-colored nature, the peculiar life of people-this is how Holland appears to us in the artist’s paintings. Fortunately, many of the artist’s works have survived to this day,but almost all of them repeat the same story.

Of course, in some of the master’s works there is a sense of imitation of the most famous Flemish painter – Peter Bruegel the Elder, but the individuality of Averkamp’s talent is undeniable, as you can see in more detail, in detail consider some of the artist’s works.
This is one of the famous story works of the Dutch master, which art historians consider a direct quotation of Peter Bruegel. By the way, the famous master has a canvas with the same name: “Winter landscape with skaters and a bird trap”, written in 1565.

Hendrik, like his famous predecessor, deliberately placed the horizon line quite high, which made it possible to depict what is happening on the frozen channel in as much detail as possible. The story-landscape composition is full of people, they skate, sledge, even on boats on the ice, carry straw and buckets, play something like hockey. Judging by the dress, residents of all classes and all ages came to the rink.
In the left part of the picture, the artist depicted a large building with the coat of arms of Antwerp on the facade, apparently it is a brewery and an Inn. In front of the house, a hole is cut in the ice, from which buckets of water are taken out with the help of a special device for brewing beer.
To the left, we see a building with animals walking around the yard and children running around. The house probably belongs to fairly well-to-do farmers. But the bird trap referred to in the title of the picture, constructed from a door propped up with a stick, can be seen in the lower left corner of the picture.

And on the icy “road” that the river has turned into, life boils and goes on as usual. Here in the foreground came the artisan people, looking for the best way to get across the ice. Near the tree, a couple is talking animatedly, around which a cheerful dog is circling. Near two men near the boat, they put on skates, and now join the ranks of carefree vacationers.

In the distance, in the middle and far distance, the artist draws ordinary residents of the city, they skate, play games with sticks, slide and fall, communicate and get acquainted. Each figure creates its own story, which you can mentally “finish drawing”.
The frozen river near the walls of Kampen was filled with numerous skaters, ice fishing enthusiasts, and farmers with sledges. The figures are United by everyday concerns: a gentleman corrects a lady’s skate, a curious boy stands nearby, a little further away they play ball on the ice, an old woman is being taken on a sled, and a dog is walking. There is also a guard with a rifle.
Against the frosty sky and snow-covered expanses, trees and houses are very clearly and vividly drawn. in the distance, you can see the outlines of towers and walls of the city, wooden buildings, a stone bridge, a windmill, and boats frozen in the ice until spring.

Agree, the filigree works of the Dutch master can be viewed for hours, finding new details, details and, of course, new characters in them every time.

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