December 20, 2003

Hay in winter.

Camille Pissarro. Farm at Montfoucault, snow effect. 1876In both art and literature, hay is associated most commonly with high summer, the season of its production, but its primary importance is surely experienced in winter, the season when animals are most heavily dependent on it for their survival. Hay stores and conveys the growth of summer and the energy of long days and the high sun from one solstice to another. Haystacks, burrowed into, were the thatched cottages of the rural homeless, of dogs and cats, and the rodents on which they preyed. Hay made the beds both of vagrants and the the legendary bairn of Bethlehem.

And winter hay attracted at least a few painters for its vivid golden hint of June among the black and white austerity of dark December. Several Impressionists tried to capture the elusive 'effets de neige' the flickering reflective effects of snow on winter landscapes, both urban and rural. Monet's famous meule series, (grainstacks, alas, not hay, and consequently disqualified from this essay) contrasted the warm complex color of the straw with the equally complicated reflectivity of the surrounding snow.

This more homely Camille Pissarro painting (Farm at Montfoucault, snow effect. 1876) shows a farmer, followed by a sheep, carrying a bundle of hay into a snow-covered farmyard. Austere whites dominate the composition, but there is warmth in the stone walls of the farm buildings, in the sheep's fleece, and especially in the hay.

This essay, one of several at our web-site, brings together a few other works of hay in winter to celebrate the winter solstice and to send season's greetings to our friends.

William Mark Fisher. Snow scene.  1894 The orchard trees lack leaves and fruit, and the grassless ground is iron beneath its icy load. But the snow-capped stacks, loaf-shapes baked in summer, promise sustenance beyond the fence that guards them. This painting, now in London's Tate Gallery, is by the American impressionist, William Mark Fisher. Fisher was influenced by George Inness in New England and Alfred Sisley in France, but inadequately appreciated in both places, and so he moved to Britain, where George Moore described him, with generous exaggeration, as "England's greatest living landscape painter."

Sir George Clausen. Frosty March morning. 1904 Sir George Clausen's rustic naturalism illustrated here in a another work in the Tate Gallery, painted twenty years after Fisher's, shows pre-impressionist French influences, such rural realists as Lhermitte and Millet. Although chronologically belonging to the early twentieth century, this painting of a farmworker digging up a frost-bound garden allotment evokes the style and sensibility from a much earlier era. While Fisher's trees are sharply angular and calligraphic, Clausen's background elms and oaks recede into the cold mist of ann unmistakably English winter horizon. Even the warmly painted central haystack is edged in hoar-frost.

George Inness.  Snowy haystack. 1889 The 1880s landscapes of George Inness are far from his earlier Hudson River School style. Many of them are at once gloomy and glamorous, influenced, according to the scholars, by the painter's interest in the work of the Swedish scientist-turned-mystic, Swedenborg. This dark powerful work, with heavy shadows across the sky and much of the foreground, has at its center, a winter haystack, half-cut, capped by snow, and lit by a low sun. The brooding clouds threaten overhead, but the face of the stack, bisected by a ladder and its faint shadow, evokes comparison with the famous Fox Talbot photograph made at Laycock, England, some forty years earlier.

Kay Jacobson. Snowy stacks in the Big Hole, Montana.Alex Harris. From the series 'Red White Blue and God Bless You,' 1982.

Few places in North America are as challenging in winter as the Big Hole basin in southwestern Montana. But this swampy valley, inhospitable to the heavy machinery of modern hay-making, produces millions of tons of fodder, piled into loose, lumpy stacks during the summer months and keeping thousands of cattle alive during the winter, when horse-drawn sleds drag it across the frozen marsh. Two Big Hole stacks in winter are in the left image, above. The other photograph in this pair shows the delivery of winter hay in a drier climate that can still drop deep snow on the Sangre de Cristo range. Alex Harris shows animals feeding on hay strewn in a large white field near the mountain village of Las Trampas, New Mexico. The Harris image was on the cover of the 1985 anthology of essays by J. B. Jackson, entitled The Essential Landscape. The photograph itself is an "essential" depiction of our theme: animals floating on an island of fodder in a sea of snow.

Paul Salisbury. Haystacks. 1965.
Joe Allen. Winter haystack. 1986

Two paintings, two decades and worlds of style and taste apart, show respectively Paul Salisbury's literal account of feeding stock in the snow in Utah, and Joe Allen's abstract composition which includes signs of haystack shapes and areas of white which might be snow. This juxtaposition of nostalgic, regional realism and decorative modernism, shows the range of artistic purposes to which winter hay can be put.

Hippolyte V. V. Sebron.  Broadway in Winter, 1855.David Milne. Haystack, 1923.
Rene Billotte.  Paysage, neige a la porte d'Asnieres, n.d.Robert Duncan. Four horse power, [nd, recent?]
Franklin Brownell. Hay sleds, Byward Market, Ottawa, 1916.Patty Fox. Winter feeding at the Clubine, [nd, recent?]

The above gallery of winter hay paintings illustrate a wide range of places and styles. At top left is an 1855 oil painting by the French American artist, Hippolyte Sebron, of New York's Broadway on an icy day. The horse-drawn sleds at the center of the frame, below the focal, distant spire of Trinity Church, are loaded with hay, either for the warmth of the passengers or to fuel the draft-animals that were the primary motive power of the mid-nineteenth century city. A detailed description of the buildings in the painting is provided by the Museum of the City of New York which owns it. Below the Sebron is Rene Billotte's late nineteenth century (?) image of bleak suburban street scene. The high load of hay heading into Paris provides the only warm color in a composition dominated by greys and whites. At lower left is another urban landscape, from early twentieth century Canada, Franklin Brownell's draft horses steaming in the snow of an Ottawa market to which they have dragged sleds of hay. The delicate image at upper right is from the same period and is also the work of a Canadian, David Milne, but his haystack in snow so deep it almost buries the foreground fence, reflects the serene isolation of a frontier farm in winter. The two other paintings on the right both focus on the work required to deliver fodder to ranch animals in the mountain west during the cold season: Robert Duncan's hay sled dragged by four big horses, flanked by collies and trailed by hungry Herefords; and a recent water color sketch by Patty Fox, Elko, Nevada, of winter feeding from a horse-drawn wagon in a roadless snow-field.

Currier and Ives, after G. H. Durrie.  Home for Thanksgiving. We conclude this seasonal essay with three quintessentially nostalgic lithographs by Currier and Ives. The one at right (after George Durrie) depicts a young man, having returned to the family farm by sled, being greeted by his family. In the background a large barn with an open door shows the hay stored within; beyond is a haystack with snow on top. May all the homes you return to during the holiday season be as warmly welcoming as this Durrie farm-house.

The two other lithographs shown below also celebrate New England husbandry. The one at lower left shows a barn so full of hay that additional stacks, each mantled in snow, have been built outside. A similar message is evident in the other image. Both include cattle standing in the snow, one nibbling at the edge of a stack, to remind us of the purpose of our theme.

May your metaphorical barn have enough metaphorical hay to nourish you and yours through every metaphorical winter. And if your world is web-mobile, please keep visiting our home of hay at -- hay, it's the fodder of all web-sites.

Nathaniel Currier. Farmyard in Winter, 1861.Nathaniel Currier. Old homestead in Winter, 1864


As our snow-less California coastal winter has wetly yielded to a snow-blossom spring, several more cold season hay pictures have been added to the database. Here are more than two dozen additional images. Go to the database for information about them, including their sources.

Photos from the '40s: 1. John Vachon, South Dakota, 1948 (ID 1453); 2. Sol Libsohn, New York State, 1947 (ID 1450).
John Vachon.  Bringing in feed, South Dakota. 1948.Sol Libsohn.  Hay sled, New York State. 1947.

Hay sleds of US and Russia: 3. Michael Lewis, Colorado, 1993 (ID 1803); 4. Dean Conger, Russia, c 1975 (ID 1662).
Michael Lewis. Hay sled, Colorado. 1993.Dean Conger. Hay sleighs, Russia. c 1975.

James Ravilious, Devon hay, dogs and snow, 1978: 5. (ID 1674); 6. (ID 1676).
James Ravilious. Farmer carrying hay down snowy road. 1978.James Ravilious. Man, hay, dogs in snowy field. 1978.

Winter twilights: 7. James Ravilious, 1978 (ID 1675); 8. Kathleen McLaughlin, Shepherd, Romania, 2000 (ID 2131).
James Ravilious. Farmer feeding sheep in blizzard. 1978.Kathleen McLaughlin, Shepherd,Romania, 2000.

Hans Kleiber's Wyoming winters: 9. (ID 1169); 10. (ID 1170).
Hans Kleiber. Winter ranch scene.Hans Kleiber. Along the Rockies.

19th century Slavic sleds with hay beds: 11. T. Axentowicz, Carpathian mountaineer's funeral, 1882 (ID 1592);
12. Vasilii Surokov, Boyarynia Morosova, 1887 (ID 1593).
T. Axentowicz. Carpathian mountaineer's funeral. 1882.Vasilii Surikov. Boyarynia Morosova. 1887

17th century Dutch oil, early 20th century German oil and late 20th century Russian movie still: 13. Hendryk Avercamp, 1608 (ID 1196);
14. Gabriel Munter, Spreufuhren, 1910 (ID 2000); 15. Andrei Konchalovsky, 1993 (ID 1222).
H. Averkamp.  Winterlandschap met ijsvermaak. 1608. Gabriele Munter, Spreufuhren, 1910.Andrei Konchalovsky.  Rabia ma poule. 1993.

Fodder for elk in the Rockies, bison in Poland and sheep in the Cotswolds: 16. Steven Leek, Wyoming, c 1906 (ID 1366); 17. Raymond Gehman, Bison coming to fodder, Poland, 1992 (ID 1814). 18. [unknown photographer], 1964 (ID 1631).
Steven Leek.  Feeding hay to elk. c 1909. Raymond Gehman, Bison coming to fodder, Poland, 1992.unknown. Bringing fodder to sheep in snow, 1964.

Traditional and modern hay in snow: 19. John Hutchinson, Winter hay stacks, New England (ID 1268);
20. Joseph Sohm, Tractor lifting bale, Montana, c 1993 (ID 1812); 21. Tom Otterness, Hay makin hay, Montana, 2002 (ID 1139).
John Hutchinson. Winter hay stacks.Joseph Sohm. Tractor lifting large bale, Montana. c 1993.Tom Otterness.  Hay makin hay, Montana. 2002.

A pair of Russian winters: 22. Nikolai Lukashuk. Haystack. 2003. (ID 2311). 23. Nikolai Repin. By the haystack. (ID 2314).
Lukashuk. Haystack. 2003.Repin. By the haystack.

Three winter woolies: 24. Lisa Graa Jensen. Winter woolies. (ID 2617).
25. Margaret Loxton. Carrying hay to sheep in winter. (ID 2629). 26. Margaret Loxton. Taking hay to the sheep by tractor. (ID 2630).
Jensen.  Winter woolies.Loxton.  Carrying hay to sheep in winter.Loxton. Taking hay to the sheep by tractor.

Another Kay Jacobson image from the snowy Big Hole: 27. Winter haystacks near Wisdom, MT (ID 2091).

Winter haystacks near Wisdom, MT. c 2000.

Four for the animals.

28. Feeding winter hay to deer in New Zealand (ID 2177). 29. Hay-sleigh, Colorado (ID 2178).

Fleming.  Farmer feeding red deer. 1986.Conger. Horse-drawn hay-sleigh, Colorado. 1968.

30. Sheep in the hay (ID 2754). 31. Dog on hay sled, France (ID 2179).

Campbell. Sheep in the hay.Garanger. Dog on hay-sled, France.

Three generations of home and the winter hay:
32. Durrie's Returning to the farm, 1861 (ID 2410). 33. Payne's Homewards, 1921 (ID 2469). 34. New Yorker cover, 1949 (ID 2198).

Durrie. Returning to the farm. 1861.Payne. Homewards. 1921.Garrett Price.  New Yorker cover. 1949.

Two more recent winter haystacks from Russia:

35. Lukashuk. Haystack. 2004 (ID 2761). 36. Nurtdinov. March in the village. 1998 (ID 2765).

Lukashuk. Haystack. 2004.Nurtdinov.  March in the village. 1998.

One last star from last year:

37. Gloria Kimball, Christmas ornament -- feeding stock from a sled near the Tetons, 2003 (ID 1252).
Gloria Kimball.  Christmas ornament. 2003.

View Database Records from this Essay

Posted by Alan Ritch at December 20, 2003 01:35 PM