Friday, February 16, 2018

Winter Through Our Ancestors Eyes

The Limbourg Brothers, January
From the Tres Riches Heures of Jean, Duke de Berry
Flemish, c. 1412-1416
Chantilly, Musee Conde_MS 65, fol. 1v



January and February are frequently difficult months to live through, even with all our modern technology.  Depending on the year and the location we can be subjected to fierce blizzards and brutal cold in the northern latitudes.  In other years we may have deceptive patches of warmer days that turn our minds to spring, only to plunge once more into deep winter.  In addition, especially in January, the days are short and, although the turn of the northern hemisphere back toward the sun has begun with the winter solstice in late December, darkness seems to reign interminably.  The lack of sunlight can contribute to depression, both physical and mental, and the closing in of life to the indoors contributes to the spread of infections such as influenza and the common cold.


This situation is, of course, nothing new.  The earth has tilted on its axis for many millennia, bringing winter and darkness alternately to both lateral hemispheres of the planet.  Only the regions near the center of the earth have a relatively stable year-round relationship with the sun.


Since this is so, how did our ancestors in the northern latitudes deal with winter?  Is there any way we can find to relate their experience with ours?  The answer is yes, at least for Western Europe.  We can actually see what they did through the calendar pages of medieval prayer books. 






Follower of Jean Pichore, January and February
From a Book of Hours
French (Paris), c. 1490-1500
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M7, fol. 1v
Calendar pages usually formed the first group of pages in missals, books of hours or other prayer books.  Their initial purpose was to record the calendar of feast days for each month of the year.  By the start of the middle ages the Church already had a well-defined calendar of feasts.  There are two kinds of feasts, moveable and fixed.  The moveable feasts are those without a specific calendar date, such as Easter, which is set each year by the relationship between the movements of the sun and the movements of the moon (being celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon which follows the spring equinox).  Fixed feasts have a specific calendar date (for example Christmas, which is celebrated on December 25 every year).  Saints feast days are the most prevalent form of fixed feast, being usually celebrated on the date of the death of the saint.


January Calendar Page
From Hours of Marguerite of Orleans
French (Rennes), c. 1426
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 1156 B, fol. 1
The books contained lists of both types of feasts, with the moveable ones being calculated for several years in the future at the time the book was created.  However, it is the pages with the fixed feast days that received the most decoration, since they are used year after year.  The fixed feasts include important festivals celebrating events in the life of the Virgin Mary (such as the Purification on February 2 or the Nativity of Mary on September 8) as well as the feast days assigned to particular saints (such as Saint Blaise on February 3 or Saint Augustine on August 28). 
















Calendar pages started out as simple lists of dates and names, just as they appear today in prayer books.  Fairly soon, however, small pictures were inserted into the page to enliven them.  And these small pictures grew in size to become, by the late middle ages, full page pictures of the natural world and human activity within it.  The Renaissance broadened this still further.




















The Middle Ages (1100-1500)

January

At the start the images were small and often focused on two things:  the sign of the zodiac associated with the month and an easily recognizable activity associated with it.
Henricus, February Calendar Page
From a Gradual, Sequentiary and Sacramentary
German (Weingarten), c. 1175-1250
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 711, fol. 2v

Ham of Fecamp, February Calendar Page
French, c. 1180
The Hague, Koninklijk Bibliotheek
MS KB 76 F 13, fol. 3r























The activity associated with the month of January should come as no surprise.  It is feasting.  In the twenty-first century we still practice this, but we have displaced the feasting from its correct place in the calendar.  In the middle ages, the celebration of Christmas took about the same amount of time as it does now.  However, they began their celebration on Christmas Eve and carried it through to the feast of the Purification on February 2, giving them roughly six weeks of celebration.  Today, especially in the United States, with its unique, secular Thanksgiving feast at the end of November, we begin the celebration in late November and end it (more or less) with New Year’s Day on January 1.  This is also roughly six weeks of celebration, just displaced.  Or, put differently, we celebrate going into the winter solstice and Christmas, they celebrated coming out of these days. 
January
From a Book of Hours
French (Paris), c. 1230-1250
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 92, fol. 15r
January also carried another charge, more obvious to them than it may be to us.  The name of the month itself derives from the name of the Roman god, Janus.  Janus is the two-headed god, who looks both ahead and behind and was the god of beginnings and endings and of transitions.  Therefore, some of the early images associated with the January calendar pages depicted the two-headed Janus feasting, with both heads.  Into one mouth he is putting food and into the other mouth drink. 
January Stained Glass Window Panel
Swiss, c. 1170
Lausanne, Cathedral

Ham of Fecamp, January
From a Psalter
French, c. 1180
The Hague, Koninklijk Bibliotheek
MS 76 F 13, fol.1v
Tweede Groep, January
From a Psalter
Flemish (Ghent), c. 1270-1280
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 72, fol. 1r



























January
From a Book of Hours
French, c. 1425-1435
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 64, fol. 1r
However, artists soon dropped this sometimes challenging image in favor of showing a man (with a single head and mouth) eating in front of a good fire. 


January
From a Church Calendar Leaves Album
Flemish (Liege), c. 1245-1255
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 908.1, fol. 1v

Eerste Groep, January
From a Psalter
Flemish (Bruges), c. 1250-1270
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 106, fol. 1r




























January
From a Psalter
English (Winchester), c. 1295-1305
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS G 19, fol. 1r
January
From a Book of Hours
French (Rouen), c. 1475-1500
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS G 4, fol. 2r
Jean Colombe, January
From a Book of Hours
French (Bourges), c. 1465-1470
New  York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 248, fol. 1r
























Other images began to appear as well.  One that is especially easy for those of us who live in the northern climate to appreciate is the motif of the man seated before the fire warming his cold feet.  In these little pictures showing him removing his boots and stretching out his cold feet and hands we can find a good deal of resonance as we cozy up to our own radiators and heaters or wrap our hands around a warm mug of coffee.
January
From a Psalter
French (Therouanne), c. 1260-1270
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 97, fol. 1r

Egerton Master, January
From a Book of Hours
French (Paris), c. 1410-1425
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 919, fol. 1r


























Initially, the man was depicted alone by the fire.  Over time, however, other figures began to be added to the scene.  Servants were shown bringing food or drink or extra logs for the fire.  


January
From a Book of Hours
French (Paris), c. 1470-1480
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS S 5, fol. 2r

Master of the Morgan 366, January
From a Book of HoursFrench (Tours), c. 1465-1475
New York, Pierpoint Morgan Library
MS M 366, fol. 5r
Master of the Rouen Echevinage, January
From a Book of Hours
French (Rouen), c. 1470-1480
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 312, fol. 1r
January
From a Book of Hours
French (Rouen),. c. 1485-1495
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 202, fol. 1e


























Friends shared the table.

Master of the Rouen Echevinage, January
From a Book of Hours
French (Rouen), c. 1475-1485
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 131, fol. 1r
Eventually, by the end of the fifteenth century women began to appear both as servants and as family members.  
Jean Colombe and Workshop, January
From the Hours of Anne of France
French (Bourges), c. 1470-1480
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 677, fol. 1r
Georges Trubert, January
From a Book of Hours
French (Avignon), c. 1480-1495
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 348, fol. 94




























January
From a Book of Hours
Flemish, c. 1485-1495
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS S 7, fol. 1r
Master of Spencer 6, January
From a Book of Hours
French (Langres), c. 1495-1505
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 271, fol. 1r
January
From a Breviary
French, c. 1506-1516
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 8, fol. 1r
By the early sixteenth century the entire family has assembled, including the dog and the cat. 

Gerard Horenbout, January
From the Grimani Breviary
Flemish, c. 1510-1520
Venice, Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana_MS Lat I 99
Simon Bening, January
From the Da Costa Hours
Flemish (Bruges), c. 1510-1520
New York, Pierpont Morgan Librry
MS M 399, fol. 2v
Follower of the Master of Petrarch's Triumphs, January
From a Book of Hours
French (Paris), c. 1515-1525
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 632, fol. 1r
Simon Bening, January
From a Book of Hours
Flemish (Bruges), c. 1515-1525
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 307, fol. 1v

Also, toward the end of the fifteenth century, these interior scenes begin to share space with glimpses of the world outside the house and of the activities associated with it.  For January, the principle outdoor activity is directed toward the goal of keeping the interior warm, for example chopping wood and carrying it home.
January
From a Book of Hours
Flemish, c. 1485-1495
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS S7, fol. 1v

Master of James IV of Scotland, January
From the Breviary of Eleanor of Portugal
Flemish (Bruges), c. 1495-1505
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 52, fol. 2r
Jean Poyer, January
From the Hours of Henry VIII
French (Tours), c. 1495-1505
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS H8, fol. 1r

February

Especially at the beginning of the medieval period February has a similar iconography, but with a slightly different pitch.  The feasting that was so prominent in January has been replaced by two images in the early calendars.  

The first is of the feast of the Purification or Candlemas, which is celebrated on February 2.  It commemorates the double event of the presentation of Jesus in the Temple and the purification of Mary, the ritual cleansing rite that Jewish women were required to undergo after childbirth.  By tradition candles are brought to church and blessed by the priests.  And many of the calendar pages feature small images of women holding one or more candles.  Later men also appear with candles. 

February
From a Psalter
Flemish (Bruges), c. 1250-1300
London, British Library
MS Royal 2 B III, fol. 2v
Eerste Groep, February
From a Psalter
Flemish (Bruges), c. 1255-1256
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 106, fol. 1v




























Tweede Groep, February
From a Psalter
Flemish (Ghent), c. 1270-1280
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M  72, fol. 1v

February
From a Psalter and Book of Hours
French (St. Omer), 1276
London, British Library
MS Yates Thompson 43, fol. 2v




























Laurentius, February
From a  Missal
Flemish (Antwerp), c. 1350-1366
The Hague, Meermano Museum
MS MMW 10 A 14, 1v

February
From the Egmont Breviary
Dutch (Utrecht), c. 1435-1445
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 87, fol. 5v























But, by far, the greater number of images of February are of people, first men, and later men and women, keeping warm by the fireside.   They hold out their cold feet and hands to the fire and lift up the skirts of their gowns to draw the heat up the entire span of their legs.
February
Swiss, c. 1170
Lausanne, Cathedral

Ham of Fecamp, February
From a Psalter
French, c. 1180
The Hague, Koninklijk Bibliotheek
MS 76 F 13, fol. 2v
February
From the Shaftesbury Psalter
English, c. 1225-1250
London, British Library
MS Lansdowne 383, fol. 3v


























February
From a Psalter
English (Reading), c. 1245-1255
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M103, fol. 4v
Interesting proof that the stirrup pant is not a modern invention!

February
From a Psalter
English (Winchester), c. 1295-1305
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS G 19, fol. 1v
Note the depiction of the right foot outside the pictorial space.  Rather than accept the limitations of the frame this artist depicts it as superimposed on the scene.  It is not a window into reality, but an imposition upon it.
February
From the Queen Mary Psalter
English (London), c. 1310-1320
London, British Library
MS Royal 2 B VII, fol. 72v
This rather unusual scene of a lord being assisted in dressing before a fire offers an intimate glimpse into the lives of fourteenth-century people.  And, anyone who has ever had to get dressed in a cold room can appreciate the need for the blazing fire.

Master of Morgan 453, February
From a Book of Hours
French (Paris), c. 1420-1435
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 453, fol. 2v
February
From a Book of Hours
French, c. 1425-1435
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 64, fol. 2r


























February
From a Book of Hours
French (Anjou), c. 1435-1445
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 157, fol. 3r

Courting Scene, February
From a Book of Hours
French (Paris), c. 1470-1480
NY, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS S 5, fol. .3r
This courting scene used as an activity for the month
of February reminds us that it is around this time that
February 14, the feast of St. Valentine, became
associated with courtship and love.



























Georges Trubert, February
From a Book of Hours
French (Avignon), c. 1480-1495
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 348, fol. 10v


February
English (Norwich), c. 1500-1520
London, Victoria and Albert Museum
























Jean Poyer, February
From the Hours of Henry VIII
French (Tours), c. 1495-1505
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS H 8, fol. 1v
February
From Meditations and Church Services
German, 1507
London, British Library
MS Egerton 2076, fol. 2 
Toward the beginning of the fifteenth century one of the most extraordinary images of February appeared in the great calendar page from the Tres Riches Heures of the Duke de Berry, painted by the Limbourg Brothers.  This image shows us not only the folks by the fire, but the outdoor activity of a manor in a snowy corner of France.  We see the distant town toward which a man is driving a donkey struggling under a load of wood.  In the middle ground another man is busy chopping down saplings for additional fuel.  In the farmyard, the sheep are safely pinned and under cover, the beehives are heaped up with snow, the pigeons and other native birds feast on some scattered grain and a dairy maid blows on her shawled hands as she plods through the snow in very practical boots.  We find ourselves looking at a world that is startlingly like our own. 

The Limbourg Brothers, February
From the Tres Riches Heures of Jean, Duke de Berry
Flemish, c. 1412-1416
Chantilly, Musee Conde
MS 65, fol. 2v
This had a huge effect on some of the miniature painters who followed the Limbourgs.  Prior to their work hardly any images had shown any winter activities outside the house.  A few images did exist, primarily as sculptural decorations on church doors or occasionally in manuscripts.  Generically called "the Labors of the Months" they showed figures participating in whatever agricultural activity suited that month.


January
Italian, c. 1250
Venice, Basilica of St. Mark
February
Italian, c. 1250
Venice, Basilica of St. Mark


























February
From the Psalter of Lambert le Begue
Flemish (Liege), c. 1255-1265
London, British Library
MS Additional 21114, fol. 1v
February
From a Breviary
French (Cambrai), c. 1275-1300
The Hague, Koninklijk Bibliotheek
MS KB 76 J 18, fol. 210v
In this image, the artist shows us not only a "Labor of 
the Month", but also a clever reference to the zodiacal 
sign for February, the twin fish of Pisces.





























Luca della Robbia, January
Italian, c. 1450-1456
London, Victoria and Albert Museum

Luca della Robbia, February
Italian, c. 1450-1460
London, Victoria and Albert Museum

Fishing in February
From The Queen Mary Psalter
English (London), c. 1310-1320
London, British Library
MS Royal 2 B VII, fol. 73
Not only is this a reference to winter fishing, but the fish are actually the symbol of Pisces, February's sign of the zodiac.
.
After the work of the Limbourgs this kind of image became much more frequent.  The fireside only scenes continued, of course, but they were joined by many more showing such scenes as workers pruning trees, preparing the ground for sowing, cutting and hauling wood.  Occasionally, the two motifs are combined, with scenes of people warming themselves by the fire outdoors. 

February
From a Book of Hours
French (Paris), c. 1415-1425
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 1000, fol. 2r

February
From the Hours of Charlotte of Savoy
French (Paris), c. 1415-1430
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 1004, fol. 1v























February
From the Dunois Hours
French (Paris), c. 1440-1450
London, British Library
MS Yates Thompson 3, fol. 2
February
From a Book of Hours
Flemish (Bruges), c. 1465-1475
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 285, fol. 2r
Jean Colombe and Workshop
From a Book of Hours
French (Bourges), c. 1465-1470
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 248, fol. 2r

February
From a Book of Hours
French (Rouen), c. 1475-1500
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS G 4, fol. 3r

February, Cutting Firewood
From a Book of Hours
Flemish, c. 1485-1495
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS S 7, fol. 2r
The action in this picture is continued on the next leaf
(at right).

February, Bringing the Cut Wood Home
From a Book of Hours
Flemish, c. 1485-1495
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS S 7, fol. 3r





















February
From a Book of Hours
Flemish, c. 1500
London, British Library
MS King's 9, fol. 3v-4
This Book of Hours contains inscriptions by Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII.  

The Renaissance and Baroque (1500-1800)

January

For whatever reason, the sixteenth century was a time of change for the depiction of the months.  No longer was the focus for the month of January solely feasting by the fire, although such pictures did continue to be created.  Instead, artists began to study and depict the wintry landscape, with its snow and leafless trees, and the human actors moving within it.  Initially glimpsed as a landscape outside the house in the manner of the Limbourg Brothers, the landscape itself soon became the dominant subject of the painting.  And, while the Labors of the Months continued to hold some place, some of the “labors” became more akin to what we would call pastimes, such as ice skating.  Not depicted until now because it was not considered worthy of recording. 

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Hunters in the Snow (January)
Flemish, 1565
Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum
Etienne Delaune, January
French, c. 1570
Paris, Musee du Louvre
Leandro Bassano, January
Italian, c. 1595-1600
Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum
In spite of the modernity of this image, it still retains a reference to the older tradition by placing the zodiacal symbol for January, Aquarius, in the sky.
Some of these winter landscapes make reference to a Biblical event associated with the month, the Flight into Egypt.
Abel Grimmer, January, Landscape with the Flight into Egypt
Flemish, c. 1600
Private Collection
Joos de Momper, Winter Landscape with the Flight into Egypt
Flemish, c.1620-1630
Private Collection
 Jan Gerritsz Swelinck, January with Flight into Egypt
Dutch, c. 1624-1645
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum

But the majority, growing ever less religious, concentrated attention on the effects of the cold weather on the natural and human worlds.

Sebastian Vrancx, January
  Flemish, c. 1620-1630
Budapest, Szépmûvészeti Múzeum
Joos de Momper, Winter Landscape
Flemish, c.1620-1630
Private Collection
Pierre Antoine Patel, January, Snow Effect
French, c. 1680-1700
Paris, Musee du Louvre

Cornelis Dusart, January, Twelfth Night
Dutch, c. 1675-1704
London, British Museum
Caspar Luyken, January
Dutch, c. 1698-1702
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum


February

February followed a similar pattern.  However, because by late February winter begins to abate, the medieval Labors often included scenes such as pruning and digging, the difference is not quite so stark. In the Renaissance and Baroque periods February also included some of the more lighthearted activities such as skating, but the focus was more weighted toward the agricultural activities that had medieval precedents.
Master of James IV of Scotland, February
From the Breviary of Eleanor of Portugal
Flemish (Bruges), c. 1495-1515
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 52, fol. 2v
February
From a Book of Hours
Dutch, c. 1500-1525
The Hague, Koninklijk Bibliotheek
MS KB 133 D 11, fol. 3r
Gerard Horenbout, February
From the Grimani Breviary
Flemish, c. 1510-1520
Venice, Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana
Horenbout's debt to the Limbourg Brothers is obvious.
Simon Bening, February
From the Da Costa Hours
Flemish (Bruges), c. 1510-1520
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 399, fol. 3v
Simon Bening, February
From a Book of Hours
Flemish (Bruges), c. 1515-1525
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 307, fol. 2r

Master of the Getty Epistles, February
From a Book of Hours
French (Tours), c. 1525-1540
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 452, fol. 3r
Pieter Bruegel the Elder, A Gloomy Day (February)
Flemish, 1565
Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum
Etienne Delaune, February
French, After 1568
Philadelphia, Museum of Art
February
French, Late 16th Century
Philadelphia, Museum of Art
February
Italian (Venetian), c. 1580
London, National Gallery



























Lucas van Valckenborch the Elder, Winter Landscape in a Snowstorm
Dutch, 1586
Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum
Joos de Momper, Dorf in Winter
Flemish, c. 1600
Hamburg, Kunsthalle
Leaonard Gaultier, February
French, c. 1600
Philadelphia, Museum of Art
Abel Grimmer, Month of February or Winter
Flemish, c 1604-1606
Private Collection
Jan van de Velde the Younger, February
From a series of The Months
Dutch, 1616
Boston, Museum of Fine Arts
February has the additional connotation of being the usual start for the season of Lent.  Thus, the theme of carnival, the time of frivolity in the days leading up to Ash Wednesda, the beginning of Lent, that was common in Catholic countries plays a role in some of the landscapes.
Leandro Bassano, Februry
Italian, c. 1595-1600
Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum
Antonio Tempesta, February, A Carnival Tournament
Italian, 1599
Philadelphia, Museum of Art
Joos de Momper_February
Flemish, c. 1600
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum

Aegidius Sadeler the Younger After Pieter Stevens, February-Carnival
Flemish, 1607
Philadelphia, Museum of Art
Cornelis Dusart, February
From 12 Months of the Year
Dutch, c. 1680-1690
Boston, Museum of Fine Arts
Nor was the theme of romantic love, associated with the feast of St. Valentine on February 14 by the fourteenth century, neglected.

February Torch Dance
Flemish, c. 1650
Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum
Francois Boucher, The Four Seasons: Winter
French, 1755
New York, Frick Collection

And, our old friends from January, eating and keeping warm, were not entirely neglected either.
Francisco Barrera, February, Winter Still Life
Spanish, 1640
Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado
Hendrick Bloemaert, Old Man Warming His Hands
Flemish, 1631
Private Collection
Joachim von Sandrart, February
German, 1642
Schleissheim, Staatsgalerie

Gradually, the distinction between the two winter months faded into an almost generic depiction of "Winter".  These paintings of the Baroque and later periods depict mainly landscapes and winter sports and have abandoned the old tie to the liturgical calendar for a new seasonal approach to nature.  
Hendrick Avercamp, Skating on a Frozen River
Dutch, c. 1608
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum
Klaes Molenaer, Winter
Dutch, c. 1660-1670
Private Collection
Aert van der Neer, Sports on a Frozen River
Dutch, c. 1660
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Jacques de la Joue the Younger, Allegory of  Winter
French, c. 1730-1740
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art

"Winter":  The Post-Baroque (1800-2018)

In the period from the mid-eighteenth century to the present the seasonal landscape has dominated.  The mysterious effects of snow and ice have continued to intrigue painters.

Caspar David Friedrich, Winter
German, 1811
London, National Gallery
Barend Cornelis Koekkoek, Winter Landscape, Holland
Dutch, 1833
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Henry Farrer, Winter Scene in Moonlight
American, 1869
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Claude Monet, Boulevard Saint-Denis, Argenteuil, in Winter
French, 1875
Boston, Museum of Fine Arts

Leon-Germain Pelouse, January:Cernay, near Rambouillet
French, c. 1887
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Alfred Sisley, Rue Eugene Moussoir at Moret: Winter
English, 1891
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Claude Monet, Ice Floes
French, 1893
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art
George Bellows, Blue Snow, the Battery
American, 1910
Columbus (OH), Museum of Art
Ernest Lawson, Winter
American, 1914
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art

It would appear that almost all ties to the old calendar pages have been obliterated, except, of course, that nature has not changed.  Winter is still winter and during the season we still do the same things that our ancestors did.  We sit at home in the warmth, we perhaps overindulge in food and drink, we do what chores are required of us in the outside world (though these may no longer involve tillage and pruning). 
George Henry Durrie, Red School House
American, 1858
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Camille Bernier, Janvier, Bretagne
French, c. 1872
Paris, Musee d'Orsay
Childe Hassam, Winter in Union Square
American, c.1889-1890
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art

When we can, if we can, we also participate in outdoor sports.  
Currier and Ives After Charles Parsons, Central Park, Winter-The Skating Pond
American, 1862
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Currier and Ives, Central Park in Winter
American, c. 1877-1894
New  York, Metropolitan Museum of Art
William James Glackens, Central Park, Winter
American, c. 1905
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art

George Bellows, Love of Winter
American, 1914
Chicago, Art Institute
Some take their interest in winter sports to great lengths and, every four years, the winter athletes of the world participate in one of the grandest winter spectacles of all, the Winter Olympics.  This competitive seeking of excellence in outdoor activities may be the greatest difference between our day and the days of our ancestors.

Of course, for the rest of us, we sit at home keeping warm and watch, not the dancing flames of the fire, but the performance of these hardy men and women on our screens.  

Or, instead of watching the screen, we may read a book, peruse a magazine or write a letter, in the company of our dog or cat.

Joseph J. Gould, February
American, 1896
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art
(Notice that the wallpaper is sprinkled with hearts
for Valentine's Day.)
Edward Penfield, February
American, 1898
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art
























So perhaps things aren’t really so different for most of us after all. 


Wharton H. Esherick, Trudging in the Snow (January)
American ,1922
Philadelphia, Museum of Art
© M. Duffy, 2018