The Dutch painter Louis Apol was and still is famous for his beautiful winter scenes and this painting is a great example of his skills and oeuvre. The low winter sun colours the sky with orange and pink hues while a woman and a small boy are heading home along a snow covered path between the trees. They have been busy gathering firewood in the forest and are carrying their heavy load on their backs. Behind them a flock of birds is rising from the ground.
Upon the death of the famous winter landscape artist Andreas Schelfhout (1787-1870), Apol was heralded by a critic as his promising successor at the age of only 21. Apol had his true breakthrough at the age of 24 at an exhibition of living masters in Amsterdam with the winter scene A January Evening in The Hague Forest. With this painting Apol made clear to all that he was indeed a marvelous painter of winter scenes, while also modernising this genre. Apol moved away from the anecdotal winter scenes from Schelfhout and painted the stillness of winter in a new colour palette. Nature and the ambience was the main subject and people were placed in the paintings only as staffage. In his works, Apol truly captured the ambiance of winter, the stillness, the solitude and the decaying nature.
His winter paintings were such a success and so real that he was invited to paint on the scientific expedition of the ship Willem Barendsz to Nova Zembla in the summer of 1880. All the watercolours and drawings he made on this journey were a great source of inspiration throughout his career. He painted a panorama of Nova Zembla with a stuffed polar bear and wooden huts near Artis, the Amsterdam zoo. This panorama was on view for many years and a great success.
For his forest scenes and other winter scenes he used photos of snow and snowy landscapes. His photos enabled him to paint snow in a very natural way in all its varieties. Drifts against the banks of a river, snow lying on a pole or on a branch or trampled snow on a path. Even in this painting all these various types have been painted to perfection.