Oil on wood; Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, Ohio
Avercamp spent most of his life in the small quiet town of Kampen on the eastern shore of the Zuider Zee. Residence relatively far from the principal artistic centres of the Netherlands helps to explain why this delightful artist, who discovered the pictorial qualities of flat landscapes and was the first to specialize in winter scenes of outdoor sport and leisure, had little influence on the development of Dutch landscape painting.
Avercamp's pictures peopled with motley crowds of all ages and classes skating, sledging, golfing, and fishing on the frozen canals of Holland fascinate social historians as well as art historians. The latter sometimes find him a troublesome painter, because it is difficult to trace his development. The plain fact seems to be that he did not have a marked one. From the very beginning he could paint a landscape with a high horizon, a great accumulation of detail, and a number of light colours, or one with a low horizon, few details, and vivid colours in the foreground which lighten as they recede to the distance. The two possibilities existed simultaneously and could be used at will until the end of his career, depending on either the artist's, or his patron's predilections.