Autumn in the Netherlands brings long grey days of rain. In a permanent state of twilight, our days are cold and designed to stay indoors. And so it is nice to see another side of it: those of the artists. Many painters have been inspired by the rain. Some paintings are dreadfully accurate while others are idyllic and colorful. Get inspired by these 10 masterpieces, they will show you more bearable sides of the rainy state.
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Paris street: the king of rain paintings
I kick off with Paris Street – Rainy weather (1877) by Caillebotte, one of my personal favorites. It’s the top image of this post. I fell in love with it during my first ever visit to the Art Institute of Chicago. The painting is vast: 212.2 x 276.2 cm. And as it is incredibly realistically painted, it’s a piece that directly grabs all the attention. The shades of grey reflecting in the umbrella and cobblestones is spot on; this is the light so often seen in Paris. (see my article about the Orangerie in Paris). The picture seems like a photographic snapshot with the two person’s legs cut off. Forever in my cerebral art directory: my favorite rainy painting!
Colors: Kandinsky & Malobabic
I always linger at Kandinsky’s paintings in Boijmans van Beuningen (the top museum of my hometown Rotterdam) I love the white-grey hues that he often used as the backdrop to his paintings. This painting is colorful, but still shows the rainy grey shade that I also love in Caillebotte’s Paris street. Kandinsky was a painter from Odessa who is said to make the first entirely abstract paintings in art history. You can this one painting in the Guggenheim Museum in New York.
Recently I discovered the Australian painter Dusan Malobabic, living in Perth. He paints very lively scenes that remind me of Renoir’s 19th century works. Malobabic shows the same movement and sense of atmosphere. Of course I should emphasize that Malobabic has his own style, colorful and bold! I hope he is ok with me placing this striking rain painting without his specific consent.
Illustrations and prints: Chiang Lee & Hiroshige
England is jut as infamous for its vast amounts of rain pouring from the skies annually. It is humor to see foreigners undergoing it, such as the Chinese painter Chiang Lee. He lived in Britain from 1933 until 1955 to teach the Chinese language. He also published a series of books, in which he shared his impressions of the areas he visited. This illustration Going to church in the rain, Wasdale Head (1937) was printed in The silent traveler in Lakeland (1937) and shows his take on northwest England.
Which lead me to another Asian artist, the world famous Utagawa Hiroshige. He made woodblock paintings and prints that are specific for the artistic style prevalent in 17th until 19th century Japan. Hiroshige was a leading artist of this style called Ukiyo-e, and it waned after his passing away. His paintings are characteristically without much depth and they have a beautiful range of unsaturated colors. This Rain Shower at Shōno (1833) is a nice distraction from the rain outside and a consolation; in exotic Japan it also rains.
Realism and surrealism: Thielker & Magritte
The paintings of Gregory Thielker do not display the rain more idyllic than it is. As drowsy and sad as they are, I have never seen paintings like these before. The paintings are so damn good that I can’t think of a better distraction to the actual rain outside. They look like photographs, but, really, they are made with paint. The rain paintings, like this Complete Stop (2008), show rain seen through car windows.
Who doesn’t know René Magritte’s pipe (ceci n’est pas une pipe!)? This father of Belgian surrealists has its own museum dedicated to his life and art in Brussels, Belgium. My lips curled at many of his crazy ideas in his typical simplified style. This particular painting is Golconda (1953). In it, it rains tiny Magrittes from the sky with that characteristic bowler hat, love that! This painting dwells in faraway Houston, USA, in the private Menil Collection.
Romanticism and impressionism: Monet & Turner
What is a list of paintings without an impressionist? The great master Claude Monet did not skip the rain, either. His atmospheric Cliffs at Pourville, rain (1886) shows how bad it can be. The landscape is barely visible. I love how Monet could make any scene look idyllic, even washing down rain. Just another proof of his typical romantic style.
It was William Turner who gave the prime example of rainy paintings: Rain, steam and speed (1844). He is said to be the founding father of impressionism and abstract art. The master of the Romantic style (see my article about Romantic landscape master Turner) made this rainy landscape look so vast, that it makes you feel insignificant. A key characteristic of Romantic paintings.
Contemporary Pan & illustrator Fruszy
The one contemporary artist who could make a deadly hurricane look happy is Yangyang Pan. She studied art in China but migrated to Canada, where she shows her impressive bonanzas of saturated colors. Her paintings all show nature, its beauty and relentless power side by side. And so this Valley Storm (2013) shares with us both the powerful movement and bright colors of the event. You can find more examples of her amazing work on her website www.yangyangpan.com
I am going to leave you with a light-footed illustration by Fruszy, not a painting. This rainy print is a dark depiction of heavy clouds and their produce. It is a nice exercise trying to see decorative patterns in unwanted situations. The sky, the rain, and the palette of colorful umbrellas out in the street can be a pleasure to the eye, if only you would look for them!