The White Mantle of Winter – Impressionist Snow painting


To the Impressionists light was all important and in particular the play of light on water. They were interested in the scientific application of colours and studied Chevreul’s Chromatic Wheel which illustrated the theory of complimentary colours and how light breaks up as it passes through a prism. It is not surprising that they were also attracted to snow which enabled them to paint light, complimentary colours and reflections. Luckily the 1870’s and 80’s produced some very cold winters and much of Northern France was blanketed in snow and frost on regular occasions.

The Impressionists’ study of snow was not just visual exploration, but also a means of transmitting strong emotions. This is particularly visible in Claude Monet’s snow paintings of the early 1880’s which reflect his own personal problems, the death of his young wife Camille from cancer, his shortage of money and his sense of isolation.

Some of the finest winter landscapes were painted by the American Impressionists most of whom had studied at the Atelier Julian in Paris and were influenced by, and personally knew, the French Impressionists. They recorded the bitterly cold North American winters often on a grand scale which reflects the immensity of the American landscape.

This short lecture is a visual treat, an account of the wonderful snow paintings of which the Impressionists are acknowledged masters.