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David Hockney, The Weather Series, 1973


Claude Monet, Poplars on the Bank of the Epte River, 1891, oil on canvas, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Bequest of Anne Thomson in memory of her father, Frank Thomson, and her mother, Mary Elizabeth Clarke Thomson, 1954

"I loved the idea of the rain as it hit the ink [and] it would make the ink run. The moment I thought of the idea I couldn't resist it."—Hockney, 1973

In tackling weather as a subject, David Hockney (British, born 1937) looked to 19th-century Japanese u-kioye woodblock prints by Katsushika Hokusai and impressionist paintings by Claude Monet. Both artists depicted a wide range of atmospheric and lighting conditions in serial formats—Hokusai most famously in his prints of Mount Fuji and Monet in his well-known paintings of grain stacks, Rouen Cathedral, and other subjects. Hockney’s Snow, in which repetitive horizontal bands of tonal gradation suggest spatial recession, is most explicitly indebted to Japanese woodcuts, while the hazy silhouettes of Hockney’s Mist recall Monet’s painting of poplar trees on the River Epte.

Challenged by the task of depicting wind, Hockney looked to Hokusai’s Ejiri in the Suruga Province, from which he adopted the motif of sheets of paper caught in a sudden breeze. Hockney’s Wind, illustrates the serial relationship between The Weather Series prints, as Snow, Mist, Sun, and Rain are shown whirling in a Los Angeles gust.


Katsushika Hokusai, Ejiri in Suruga Province, from the series Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji, c. 1830–1832, woodblock print,
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Rogers Fund, 1914


James Gillray after Rev. John Sneyd, Very Slippy Weather, published 1808, hand-colored etching and engraving, National Gallery of Art, Gift of the Arcana Foundation, 1996

Wind suggests that Hockney was interested not just in the swirling breeze, but also in the circulation of images, an idea played out by another British artist, James Gillray, in his 1808 print Very Slippy Weather (from his own Weather series). Gillray conflates climate with commerce and meteorology with the art market as a man slips on a wet surface and spills his money in front of a shop window advertising Gillray’s own prints. In Wind, Hockney amusingly incorporates the Melrose Avenue street sign (marking Gemini’s location) and the curving “left turn only” arrow, above which his fluttering prints traffic in freewheeling and witty visual references, art historical and otherwise.

The Weather Drawn: Hockney Working at Gemini

Banner image: David Hockney, Rain (detail), 1973, lithograph and screenprint, Gift of the Woodward Foundation, Washington, DC, 1976. © David Hockney and Gemini G.E.L.