Forensic Friday #13: The Four Snowmobilers of the Apocalypse?

Dr. Eleanor McQuillen’s Crime Scene Painting The Four Snowmobilers of the Apocalypse?

Four Snowmobilers of the Apocalypse .5

While my mom would occasionally be called to investigate snowmobile accidents, this looks like an accident that happened near her home after she retired. The trees, the rolling hills, and the snowmobile paths evoke the scene outside her front door. The key clue, which may be harder for you to make out, is the H.F.D. on the ambulance. The H may stand for her Hardwick Fire Department.

This painting demonstrates an increasingly deft touch. Snow-covered hills, with all that white, can be difficult to convincingly render. She effectively mixes in a light blue-gray to bring out shadows and definition. The trees, both evergreen and deciduous, are some of the best she has painted. The muddy tracks from the dirt road to the crash site are a nice detail.

There are no black birds in this painting but check out the silhouetted snowmobilers in the background. These ominous, featureless figures hover above the accident scene like specters. When I see four ominous figures I can’t help but think of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Of course I am reading into this more than the artist probably intended. After all, these figures could just be a compositional device. Or are they? <insert ghoulish laughter here>

If you follow this blog you know I preach the importance of viewer interpretation. This is a good example of how a viewer’s active interpretation—especially when shared—can add layers of meaning to a work of art. <insert gratuitous ghoulish laughter here>

Next week’s crime scene painting shifts from winter to spring with Death In a Season of Rebirth.

Teaching Opportunity

Adopt a detective’s perspective when looking at this painting and use three simple questions to frame a class discussion.

  • What is going on in this picture?
  • What do you see that makes you say that?
  • What more can we find?

Decide if and when to share the title of the painting as it may guide, or overly influence, the way students view the work. You will also need to decide if it is beneficial to share the back story that this is a crime scene painting and is painted by one of the crime scene investigators for her child as a way to share life’s thoughts and lessons.


  1. Vicki
    Vicki December 12, 2014 at 10:06 pm .

    I particularly like those muddy footprints. They’re a very sophisticated choice for a painting of such spareness.

    1. Charles McQuillen
      Charles McQuillen December 13, 2014 at 7:28 pm .

      Agreed. It also reveals something about the artist. Those dirty footprints on a fresh blanket of new snow certainly would have caught her obsessive eye.

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