Snow in the Canadian Landscape
In my last post I spoke about how few of my landscape paintings are of snowy scenes. In this post I share what I aspire to – some of my favorite Canadian landscape paintings featuring snow.
Lawren Harris, one of the key members of the Group of Seven had snow in a number of his landscapes. Often this snow would be capping distant mountains but in Snow II it is in the foreground, heavily laden on evergreen boughs. A key observation illustrated by this painting is that snow doesn’t have to be white and certainly not when it is in the shadows. Shacks, a 1919 painting by Harris shows whiter sunlit snow on the ground and roof tops of an urban scene. Note though the color and value difference of the little bits of snow falling in shadows. The Drive is a masterful example of depicting sunlight and shadow on the snow. The difference is pretty subtle but to me it read instantaneously. As a final Harris example North Shore, Baffin Island show the snow/ice atop distant mountains. Again the lesson for me was the value and color difference between the shaded and sunlit snow.
I looked at reproductions of a number of Group of Seven paintings and used a value scale reference card to assess the value of snow in sun and shadow. I think in terms of a nine-point value scale with 1 being white and 9 being black. I observed that there was typically a 3 point value difference between the snow in sun and shadow – commonly a value 3 in the sun and a value 6 in the shadow.
A.Y. Jackson was another leading member of the Group of Seven painters. In his Winter Charlevoix County paintings we can see snow covered rolling fields with the delicate variations between the sunny and shady sides. In Houses St. Urbain we see an example of houses and snow, similar to Harris’ Shacks. Jackson’s Winter Moonlight gives an example of a painting of snow at night, in the light and shadow of the moon (how is this different from the sunny scenes?)
Finally a couple of examples of snow paintings from a couple of other members of the Group of Seven: A.J. Casson’s Winter on the Don and J.E.H. MacDonald’s Early Evening Winter (a great example that an area doesn’t have to be white to read as snow).
There are of course many, many other examples of snowy landscape paintings from the Canadian Group of Seven and if you explore the links given above you will come across other great examples. In a future blog I will share some of my favorite Tom Thomson snow paintings.