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29.1.04

Snow Art — by Mark Barry

I’d much rather be thinking of paintings with a warm climate theme—think Paul Gauguin; however, you have to deal with what is before your eyes. A beautiful white carpet of snow has been covering the mid-Atlantic region and I have been inspired. Maligned by commuters, romanticized by lovers and musicians, thrilling sledders and snow angel enthuthiasts, snow leaves an indelible impression.

Looking out my studio window, maybe too much this past week, I love how the stark winter trees cast long shadows of purple and blue across the white snow pack. Nature is rarely this graphic: an opportunity for some very straightforward imagery. Think Alfred Sisley (Snow at Louveciennes, 1875, Musée d'Orsay, shown at left; or Road under Snow, Louveciennes, c. 1876, Private Collection), Claude Monet (The Cart; Snow-Covered Road at Honfleur, with Saint-Simeon Farm, c. 1867, Musée d'Orsay), or Pieter Bruegel the Elder (detail from The Hunters in the Snow (January), 1565, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna), a favorite of mine: these are not paintings made gazing out the window of a warm studio, they are easel stuck in a snowbank, frozen palette paintings, the original arctic explorers.

Several years back The Phillips Collection had a fabulous exhibit of snow paintings (Impressionists in Winter: Effets de Neige, 1998; and at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco in 1999). It was a gem of a show that is still talked about to this day, a refreshing look at snow through artists' eyes, and there were many. (See also the selection of snow paintings from the BBC online exhibit Painting the Weather.)

So let it snow, let it snow. Enjoy, it’s a gift.

Mark Barry (www.markbarryportfolio.com) is an artist working in Baltimore.