Skating was a national pastime in 17th century Netherlands, and people of all classes took advantage of the frozen city and village streets. During this Golden Age of Dutch painting, landscapes were becoming increasingly popular, as scenes from everyday life with nature as an integral element were developed as serious subjects. Panoramic, birds-eye view winter landscapes depicted countless tiny figures on the ice, each with their own gestures and personalities. This allowed for the artist to capture a snapshot of a typical winter’s day, and devote particular attention to wispy clouds and barren tree branches.
Perhaps the most iconic image Scottish painting is The Skating Minister by Henry Raeburn, which shows the sharply outlined silhouette of Reverend Robert Walker. As a member of the Edinburgh Skating Society, he would spend afternoons on the frozen lochs in an elegant black ensemble. Imagine such a character beside you the next time you’re on an ice rink.