The Hunter in the Snow



Course instructor


The Hunter in the Snow

The Hunter in the Snow is a Northern Renaissance’s 1565 oil on wood painting done by Flemish artist, Pieter Bruegel the Elder depicting wintry time of the year. The three people in the scene seem to be hunters because they can be seen returning from the expedition with their dogs trudging wearily. Hunting seems to have been unsuccessful looking at their weary walking and the dogs’ downtrodden and miserable appearance. Bruegel shows sense of warmth and closeness amongst the community in the paint and further makes the village appear as a place of fun and games (n.p). This is evident because even when the hunters hunch, people are just happy, tied to earth and to each other. Children find time to play in the cold winter despite the hunters’ hunch. The sense of community and lose social relationship is symbolized by the houses and church that are stifled in white.

Conforming to the seasonal part of nature has greatly been depicted and the human activities representing economic activities remain the dominant theme. The hunters returning with their hounds and skaters skimming the frozen snow depicts some of the activities taking place on the artwork. Nature is regarded by the painter as the setting for human activities thus acting as the main subject of the image. Bruegel successfully invented the snow scene where he seemed to have concentrated on the climate change that was experienced in 1565 (n.p). The ice has buried the land thus reducing the number of economic activities such as farming that can be done with the land as seen in the picture. The paint, which depicts the Little Ice Age, shows the pre-industrial society that did not have much control on their surroundings (Bruegel n.p).

The Little Ice age was a natural phenomenon that people could perhaps do very little about to control hence forcing them to adapt to it. Bruegel showed the possibility of enjoying a harsh climate where people do not shiver in the cold and relax. The cold climate provokes people’s vitality making adults to huddle while children skating on the ice. There is woman depicted in the paint carrying bundle of branches as another man riding a horse along the road while some people trying to reach a flaming chimney which shows that the people are busy doing at least one thing or the other (Bruegel n.p).

Bruegel has achieved in painting the landscape especially during the winter season to substantiate the evidence on the harshness of the Little Ice Age that was also marred with religious revolution in the Netherlands. He successfully portrays the secular aspect of what a village looks like in the wintry season by capturing the archetype and idea of winter (Bruegel n.p). He made the artistic work detailed and realistically portrayed by incorporating some details such as cold, ruthless, justly despondent and real. This is evident when the audience focuses on the weary hunters and the calm, cold and overcast visual impression depicting the harshness and loneliness associated with the wintry season. Bruegel also muted colours to white and grey while showing the trees to be leafless thus giving a complete and realistic picture of the wintry season.

Works cited

Bruegel, Pieter. The Hunters in the Snow. 1565. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria.