Van Gogh •
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Hendrik Avercamp was born in Amsterdam, the son
of a schoolteacher and the grandson on his mother's side of the philosopher Meerhoutanus. He studied art in Amsterdam with Gillis de Coninxloo and was so silent in the studio that his fellow students nicknamed him "The Mute." Little is known of his life except that he set up a studio in The Hague where he painted landscapes, marine scenes, and a great many of the winter scenes for which he is best known today.
Avercamp painted in the tradition of Brueghel, filling his airy landscapes with small
lively figures skating, sprawling, dancing, and working on the frozen rivers and canals, singly or in groups. Avercamp's skies are pale blue and softly clouded, his atmosphere sparkles, and his light is clear and frosted, filling both sky and landscape. His buildings and trees have as much gaiety and movement as may be found in the figures, which seem like animated puppets. The freedom in Avercamp's landscapes is more typical of early seventeenth-century painters than it is of the next generation of artists, who were more interested in interpreting the landscapes themselves than the life found in them.