Klaes Molenaer (Dutch, active circa 1630-1676)
Winter Scene with Skaters, n.d.
Oil on panel 23 1/2 in. x 32 in. (59.69 cm x 81.28 cm)
Crocker Art Museum, E. B. Crocker Collection1872.629
Little is known of the Haarlem artist Klaes Molenaer’s early training, but he was influenced early on by Jan van Goyen and, later, by the landscapist Salomon van Ruisdael, with whom he may have studied. The naturalism of his later work has led to the proposal that Jacob van Ruisdael, one of the key figures of Dutch late-17th-century landscape painting, also influenced him. His brother, the painter Jan Miense Molenaer, specialized in depicting festive gatherings.
By 1651, Molenaer had become a member of the Haarlem’s artists’ guild and specialized in genre subjects and landscapes, especially winter scenes. In the Netherlands in winter, frozen, low-lying canals could be used for transport. Though the pleasures of winter are depicted in the form of skaters and a couple strolling with their dog, in this painting the wide canal becomes the gathering place for commerce. Goods and passengers are ferried by sledge—much quicker than by cart in this season. Small merchants set up shop on the ice, and a makeshift well has been cut into the ice to ensure the water supply. Beyond these scenes are houses whose eaves drip with icicles, and windmills that catch the bitter wind.