In January 1914, George Bellows lamented in a letter, "There has been none of my favorite snow. I must always paint the snow at least once a year." Since 1907 Bellows had regularly executed winter scenes. These works, which earned him critical recognition, reflect the deep pleasure he took in the brisk temperatures and bright light of the season. On February 13, when a blizzard blanketed New York City with fresh, white snow, Bellows eagerly got to work, painting Love of Winter, a rollicking depiction of skaters defying the cold with their energetic activity.
In Love of Winter, Bellows celebrated his favorite time of year with closely observed vignettes: a mother takes her daughter’s hand, boys race across the ice, a man laces on his skates. The work’s fresh appeal derives from the artist’s bold palette. Bellows’s interest in the effects of color, as well as his dedication to Realism, was first sparked in 1904, when he attended the New York School of Art. Like many American artists around the turn of the twentieth century, Bellows practiced Tonalism, a method pioneered by George Inness and James McNeill Whistler in which a single tone dictates the chromatic range throughout a composition. In his winter paintings, Bellows took a daring, new direction, introducing sharp contrasts that convey bright light gleaming on frozen surfaces. He based his experiments on a system developed by the paint manufacturer Hardesty Maratta, who marketed a set of twelve colors, assigning each a musical note to suggest combinations based on harmonious chord structures. Bellows applied Maratta’s rules liberally, for the jarring contrasts in Love of Winter—the strong yellows and oranges that flick across the dominant icy blues—add as much vitality as harmony to this lively scene.
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