Ice in the River, a winter scene of upper Manhattan, hints at the gradual encroachment of urban life along the Hudson and Harlem rivers as New York expanded northward. Lawson shared his friend John Twachtman's interest in winter scenes, especially the effects of light on fallen snow. Blue is used throughout, not to define sunlight and shadow, as was the aim of the impressionists, but to create form and a vibrant surface.
Ice in the River is closely related to several other snow scenes composed around 1907, however it depicts a different site along the river. Similar to the other scenes, it has a high horizon and expansive view that allows the landscape to spread before the viewer like a tapestry. Furthermore, it also shares with them interwoven brushstrokes that create the illusion of a bright haze. The compositions focal point becomes the boat and pier painted in dark blue, which contrasts with the wintry gray-green and cream-colored pastel shades that dominate the background.