For the landscape artist the impact of seasonal change provides renewed and stimulating subject matter as the months pass. As lockdown brought many of us closer to the natural rhythms of the seasons, the filter of another artist’s vision and imagination can help us to appreciate the small wonders of the turning year and look more closely at the world that surrounds us. As well as the changes to trees, plants and wildlife, which are conspicuous at different times of year, the agricultural calendar has a dramatic effect on the appearance of the rural landscape. The work that unfolded there as the seasons progressed was also appealing to many artists before mechanisation changed the face of British farming. Many of the artworks made in response to these ideas are explored in The Seasons: Art of the Unfolding Year, a new exhibition that I have co-curated with Gill Clarke at St Barbe Museum and Art Gallery.
Winter is a season of short days and darkness, when nature appears dormant or even dead, so it has traditionally been a time for seeking comfort and company around the warmth of the hearth. Visually it is often depicted as a season of snow and ice and the transformation of landscapes under snow has long been a popular subject with artists. Joseph Farquharson’s snowbound sheep are the stuff of countless Christmas cards. For an artist like Adrian Allinson, whose work was marked by a fondness for dramatic lighting effects, snow created a sparkling child’s wonderland.
His contemporary John Nash was more interested in subtle modulations of colour and tone he experienced on overcast days when snow carpeting the ground would complement grey skies, tree trunks and pallid grass. Nash spent the winter painting his garden and exploring the surrounding Essex countryside, he was particularly drawn to bodies of water so a frozen pond or flooded lane might bring new interest to a familiar scene. Stripped of their leaves, the individually unique forms of deciduous trees are revealed.
Artists have enjoyed tracing their intricate structures, using them to punctuate wider landscapes or in dramatic individual tree portraits. The bare tree lends itself to bleak and eerie effects as seen in the etchings of Graham Sutherland or some of Edward Burra’s late watercolours. The wartime angst that darkened the Neo-Romantics’ visions of the 1940s resulted in the tortured limbs and spiky branches seen in the watercolours of Johns Minton and Craxton. More recently Kurt Jackson’s atmospheric plein air painting has conjured works like Bird Song, Lymington River, Winter Woodland, Feb. 2005 with its weak winter sun reflected on the surface of a river shrouded by dense, twisted branches of overhanging vegetation. The absence of colour can make winter landscapes appear drab, but the season does have its blooms as spring approaches and snowdrops, crocuses and gorse flowers appear.
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
Henry Scott Tuke
The Newlyn School painter was a complex character with modest aims, yet he deserves to be regarded as one of Britain’s greatest figurative artists says STEVE PILL
The part-time painter only began sharing her portraits in earnest last year, yet she has a colourful, layered approach to watercolour and pastel that is finding new fans quickly
Our columnist LAURA BOSWELL guides you through this simple home printmaking project, teaching you how to plan and create a three-colour reduction linocut
Watercolourist GRAHAME BOOTH explains this tricky concept and how it can be used to give a sense of depth to your paintings
DENIS JOHN-NAYLOR is known as “The Man that Paints the Park”. Here he shows why a local green space is all you need to get to grips with painting outdoors this summer
From her Suffolk workshop, the illustratorturned-printmaker tells REBECCA BRADBURY about the conflicting demands of modern-day creativity and the artistic appeal of allotments
The Royal Academician tells ANDREW LAMBIRTH about the joys of the Welsh landscape, her “special time” to paint, and why she’s still learning new lessons at the age of 101
Faced with a bunch of newly-cut blooms, ANNE-MARIE BUTLIN wanted to capture some of that freshness and optimism in the way she painted them – here’s how she did it
Our special ends with a demo by HASHIM AKIB showing you how simple colour choices can provide a clearer focal point and why your brushes have a big bearing on the outcome
Highlights and shadows give life to a painting but placing them is tricky. SANDRINE MAUGY sets out five principles for a successful tone study and explores the best media to use