Andreas Schelfhout enjoyed an enormous reputation as a painter of landscapes. He was renowned as the painter 'par excellence' of winter scenes, excelling in the detailed expression of translucent ice and powdery snow. Quintessential of Dutch winter life, these traits made these paintings his most sought-after subjects.
Whereas Schelfhout's early artwork, before 1830, consists of the somewhat pristine summer landscapes and seascapes, he is most famous for his beautifully, detailed winter landscapes that come to full maturity after 1840. The present winter scene from 1845 is a fine example of his mature style with its atmospherical depiction of the sky and all its gracious detailing in the ice blocks lying loose, the sharp cracks in the ice and skating tracks, which were created by using thin brushes.
Nevertheless this masterpiece of 19th century Dutch Romanticism is also connected to the great tradition of the 17th century Dutch landscape painting in matters of conception, color and execution although its spirit is a clearly different and modern. The frozen river landscapes of Salomon van Ruysdael, Aert van der Neer and Aelbert Cuyp could have been a source of inspiration for Schelfhout, amongst them specially Cuyp's ice scenes with their low point of view and the sensitivity to light and its reflections.
A stylistic trait also found in other paintings of this period, is the discreet balance of horizontal and vertical elements, the latter composed of trees, windmills, the mast of a sailing boat and a cottage. The movement of the figures in the painting, for instance observed in the three figures of a family skating away from the vantage point towards the spectator, manages to create a dynamic ensemble of the strictly ordered masterpiece.