The Little Ice Age; The Rijksmuseum presents the first survey of winter landscapes by Hendrick Avercamp

  • AMSTERDAM, Netherlands
  • /
  • September 03, 2009

  • Email
Hendrick Avercamp, Winterlandschap met schaatsers. Circa 1608
The Rijksmuseum


The Rijksmuseum Amsterdam presents the first exhibition devoted to Hendrick Avercamp, the foremost painter of Dutch winter landscapes in the 17th century. Avercamp was the first Dutch artist to specialize in paintings of winter landscapes featuring people enjoying the ice. Some 400 years on, our image of life in the harsh winters of the Golden Age is still dominated by Avercamp’s ice scenes with their splendid narrative details of couples skating, children pelting each other with snowballs and unwary individuals falling through the ice. In addition to twenty of his finest paintings, the exhibition features twenty-five of his best drawings from museums and private collections throughout the world. Hendrick Avercamp: The Little Ice Age runs from November 20, 2009 to February 15, 2010 at the Rijksmuseum. It will then appear at the National Gallery of Art in Washington from March 21 to July 5, 2010.

The winter landscapes by Hendrick Avercamp (Amsterdam 1585-1634 Kampen) are some of the most characteristic Dutch panoramas of the 17th century. It was shortly after 1600 that he developed his vistas of frozen rivers and canals into an independent genre of Dutch art. His paintings and drawings convey a timeless atmosphere that continues to strike a familiar chord to this day. They demonstrate to perfection the passion that natural ice has aroused in the Dutch soul for centuries: when the water freezes over, everyone takes to the ice - young and old, rich and poor. The Mute, as Avercamp was known by contemporaries because of his incapability to speak, had a sharp eye for a visual anecdote. There are always new details to be discovered in his theatrical settings: couples skating about elegantly, finely-dressed gentlemen playing kolf, children sledding, or a sailing-boat flitting past on skates.


Avercamp also devoted space in his winter landscapes to the day-to-day hardships that the long, harsh winters of the period caused: a man laid out flat on the ice, another chopping wood to heat his house, a woman washing clothes in the freezing water and market traders trying to sell their wares. The tremendous diversity of figures in Avercamp’s paintings is a colorful illustration of 17th-century fashions among country folk and fishermen all the way up to the highest aristocrats.


Avercamp’s drawings form a particularly varied and adventurous part of his oeuvre. Apart from ice scenes they also include summer landscapes, people at work and remarkable costume studies. Often the individuals and groups in his drawings reoccur in his paintings, invariably set in a new context.

The twenty paintings and twenty-five drawings featured in Hendrick Avercamp: The Little Ice Age have been gathered from museums and private collections in Europe and the United States, including the National Gallery in London, Szépmüvészeti Múzeum in Budapest and Houston Museum of Fine Arts in Houston (Texas).

Special program for the deaf and hard of hearing

Seventeenth-century sources suggest that Avercamp was probably deaf. For the Rijksmuseum this is an ideal moment to launch a program for deaf and hearing-impaired visitors. The museum has worked closely with the Dutch signing center (Nederlands Gebarencentrum) to develop special signs for museums and for art - signs which have not existed until now. A signed tour is available accompanying the exhibition and an educational program is being developed for people with impaired hearing, including an interactive signed tour. After the exhibition finishes the Rijksmuseum will continue providing a varied program for deaf and hearing-impaired visitors. This program is made possible with support from the Rijksmuseum Fonds and Kattendijke/Drucker Stichting.

For more information

Rijksmuseum, Press & Publicity, Hélène Bothof

PO Box 74888, 1070 DN Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Phone +31 (0)20-6747172 / 330



Visual images are available for download via

Hélène Bothof
Rijksmuseum, Press & Publicity
+31 (0)20-6747172 / 330

The Rijksmuseum

  • Email
The Trustees

ARTFIXdaily Artwire