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The Power of Art to Create Hope | “Winter Games on the Frozen River Ijssel”

Art connects us all and can be pivotal in creating hope on even the darkest days. A prime example is found in “Winter Games on the Frozen River Ijssel,” a Dutch masterpiece that shows everyday people facing a bleak winter in stride, finding joy in the empty cold.

Here, we’re sharing a brief overview of Hendrick Avercamp, the artist behind this powerful work, and how both his life and art remind us of joy and hope.

Who is Hendrick Avercamp?

Aside from the artwork he created, Hendrick Avercamp has a life story that inspired hope on its own. The artist was born deaf and mute, obvious hardships. Yet, he was able to turn these challenges into strengths, developing a keen eye and observant curiosity that served him well as an artist.

Born in Amsterdam, Avercamp became one of the first landscape artists in the Dutch school of the 17th century and is now considered one of the Dutch Masters, for good reason.

HENDRICK AVERCAMP "A Scene on the Ice" shows people playing winter games
A Scene on the Ice

His paintings tend to center around a theme of Dutch winters. And although winters are often dark, cold, and bleak, Avercamp paints them with astonishingly vivid color and expresses joy in the face of the long, formidable season.

HENDRICK AVERCAMP "Winter Scene on a Canal" shows people playing winter games
Winter Scene on a Canal

A true vision of hope and a reminder that we can always make the best out of every situation, Avercamp’s personal strength and what he expresses in his art is truly inspiring. One of his impressive landscapes, “Winter Games on the Frozen River Ijssel” is particularly joyful.

HENDRICK AVERCAMP "Winter Games on the Frozen River Ijssel" shows people playing winter games

“Winter Games on the Frozen River Ijssel"

Perhaps due to his profound life experiences, Avercamp seems adept at finding silver linings. Most of his work focuses on the joy amongst the hardships that people face during the winter months and “Winter Games on the Frozen River Ijssel” is a testament to this theme.

Made with ink, gouache, and graphite on paper, this vibrant piece is telling the story of people making lemonade out of lemons. The river has frozen over, and the sky is grey, yet people still come together to play.

“Winter Games on the Frozen River Ijssel” is full of vignettes, another common Avercamp theme, adding dimension to the work the more you gaze upon it. In the same way that we all have a unique experience in how we manage hardship, Avercamp’s art expresses a breadth of human life.

A child with his dog, a crowd of eager onlookers, friends engaging in amicable competition... as humans, we always find ways to make the best of a cold day and find joy in even the darkest times.

It’s this reminder of hope in “Winter Games on the Frozen River Ijssel” that proves art’s value. In art, we see the collective human condition, the struggle we all share. But, art instills faith in us all that hope can always be restored and it’s possible to find simple joys in our everyday hardships.

“Winter Games on the Frozen River Ijssel" is a part of the National Gallery of Art, DC, collection, but not on view. It is a poignant reminder that there’s always light to be found in the darkness and hope to be found in art.

HENDRICK AVERCAMP "Winter Landscape with Skaters" shows people playing winter games
Winter landscape with Skaters


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