From Spring to Winter

Of all the wonderful landscape paintings in the world it may seem strange to relate, on one of the warmest February days on record, the genre that appeals most to me is the winter scene.  From Andrew Wyeth to Hendrick Avercamp it's the silence that snow brings coupled with the sound of voices carrying over greater distance than they do in summer that captivate the imagination.  I know that seems a contradiction but when snow stops falling and has settled deep, there is a quiet unlike any other before all sounds are magnified. Laughter and shouting, the hiss of skates on ice or, in the case of Wyeth, just the wind cutting through a fence to create a musical note that changes according to the velocity. The grandest examples of winter landscapes are generally considered to be painted in oil, but I have a particular fondness for Gouache.

Gouache is similar to watercolour, but with a binding agent to make it opaque. This was traditionally gum Arabic but it is popularly known as 'water colours mixed with egg white'.  It requires an extra skill in its application because dries to a different hue than it appears when wet with lighter tones drying  darker and vice versa. The term, derived from the Italian guazzo, was originally applied to the early 16th century practice of applying oil paint over a tempera base, but however achieved the effect is of great depth and infinite detail. The example illustrated is by Paradyen, an artist at the Court of the Prince of Anhalt-Zerbst-Dessau who lived at the Court of the Czar from 1741 until 1755. While there he was employed to paint portraits of the Czar's family in addition to many landscapes.  Several of his portraits hang in the Old Masters Gallery of Dresden and in the last years of his life he gained further recognition in Paris, and is sometimes referred to in catalogues as 'Le Parisien'. One additional benefit of many Gouache paintings is that they are small enough to hang even on a crowded wall. Oh thank goodness, there's a storm on its way.