In the first of these two articles looking at the snowline in paintings, I showed some nineteenth paintings up to 1880 which used snow on distant mountains to great effect. This article concludes by showing works from the end of the nineteenth century onwards.
Yesterday I suggested that it was Franz von Lenbach, in his Alhambra in Granada (1868), who established the Alhambra in Granada as an almost unique combination of foreground heat and the contradictory background snowline.
Edmund Wodick’s Granada from 1886 was probably the last work that this artist completed: shortly afterwards he developed pneumonia and died at the age of 69. He painted this just outside the city walls, looking across at the Alhambra and its towers, down towards the lush green plain and the snow-capped peaks in the far distance.
Those are the mountains of the Sierra Nevada, which rise to over 3,000 metres (10,000 feet), and here look like a bank of white cloud peeking over a false horizon, much as in Frederic Edwin Church’s earlier Cotopaxi (1855) (in the previous article).
This is a contrasting view painted by Hernandez Miguel Vico, a local artist.
Joaquín Sorolla’s Tower of the Children from 1909 downplays the snowy mountains by tucking them into a corner.
Antonio Muñoz Degrain uses them in a tonal and colour progression in his View of the Alhambra. From the foreground back, this starts with dark greens, works through pinks, oranges, and yellows, then reaches the white of the Sierra Nevada in the far distance.
In 1917, Sorolla returned to this theme when he was exhausted after completing a demanding commission of fourteen large murals for the Hispanic Society of America building in Manhattan. In his Sierra Nevada, Granada, the mountains dominate, with patches of cloud to add some uncertainty as to their forms.
Adrian Stokes’ Autumn in the Mountains (1903) shows a stand of birch trees in the rock-strewn upland pastures of the South Tyrol, with serious snow-covered mountains in the far distance.
Similarly late in his career, and exhausted by it, Lovis Corinth moved for much of the year to a mountain hut by the Walchensee in the Bavarian Alps. In the late autumn of 1923, he sketched the snowline of the mountains as it gradually descended, in his Tree at Walchensee (1923).
A little later that year the snowline fell to the valley floor, and he painted Walchensee in Winter (1923).
In Nikolai Astrup’s Norwegian fjord, there’s no warning from the snowline. Early Snow (1926-27) is a loose oil sketch of the beds at his home in Sandalstrand after the first snowfall of the autumn. It has caught the Astrup family’s vegetables by surprise, with two large red cabbage plants looking the worse for the cold. The door to the house is open, revealing a traditional wood-burner blazing away to keep the occupants warm.
I finish with two paintings from artists who you wouldn’t normally associate with ice or snow.
Almost every other painting I’ve seen by Louise Upton Brumback shows a beach scene. Her Afternoon Sun from 1928 shows what I believe to be a landscape in California, with snow-covered mountains in the far distance.
Late in Marsden Hartley’s career, he went to live in Maine, where his Mount Katahdin, Maine, First Snow, No. 1 (1939-40) shows the highest mountain in Maine, 1605 metres in height, a rugged peak which is the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.
If that’s the sight that greets you when you first look out of the window in the morning, you know that autumn has arrived, and winter’s coming close behind.