The shortening winter’s day is near a close - Lady Lever Gallery

The shortening winter's day is near a close (1903) by Joseph Farquharson RA (1846 - 1935)

The shortening winter's day is near a close (1903) by Joseph Farquharson RA (1846 - 1935) - Credit: Archant

The shortening winter’s day is near a close, (1903), by Joseph Farquharson RA (1846 - 1935)

This work is arguably one of the finest depictions of a wintry landscape in the world. It has grown to become one of the most popular Christmas card designs in history.

Its creator Joseph Farquharson was a master of using sunlight at dusk or dawn to convey a certain mood. In doing this here he was able to produce beauty and majesty from an everyday farming scene. He painted many canvasses of sheep in snow; so many, in fact, that he was given the moniker Frozen Mutton Farquharson! His works often also feature human figures but in less prominent roles – these are usually farm workers going about their daily tasks. The ‘red sky at night’ cuts through the snow clad branches, its light slowly retreating into the distance. The romantic view of the countryside is reinforced by the poetic title given to this work.

Despite the freezing temperatures and extremes of hour, the artist would work outdoors. In search of authenticity he had built on his estate a mobile studio. This let him work outdoors, in what artists refer to as en plein air but in comfort and safety in even in the most inhospitable Scottish weather conditions.

Most of his snow pictures were created on the large estate surrounding his familial house at Finzean, Aberdeenshire. Farquharson was the twelfth Laird of Finzean and his large house welcomed guests with elaborate tartan carpets and Farquharson works on the walls. It became a popular venue for society gatherings and was well-known throughout artistic circles.

For many years Farquharson’s snow scenes were a popular feature of the annual Royal Academy shows and they proved to be a huge commercial success. Lithographs of the original or even high quality reproductions became popular features on the parlour walls of many houses. Farquharson would paint multiple copies of his most popular works, either to bolster his earnings with additional sales or as personal keepsakes which we would hang on the walls of Finzean Hall. However the original version of this painting can be seen in the Lady Lever Gallery at Port Sunlight.