Sidney Felsen has quipped that Hockney made his Weather prints at Gemini “because Los Angeles had no weather.” While the California sun undoubtedly appealed to the British artist, Hockney’s series takes on both the subject of weather and conventions of depicting intangible atmospheric conditions—“the weather drawn” as Hockney puts it. In so doing, The Weather Series is in dialogue not just with Hokusai and Monet, but also with a rich lineage of artists who have depicted seasonal change in serial formats, including Pieter Bruegel the Elder and Nicolas Poussin. Initially, Hockney planned a larger series that would include prints of frost and a rainbow. Though these never materialized, he did create a number of variants and related prints (which fall outside the discrete series) while testing different representations of atmospheric phenomena.
The Weather Drawn: Hockney Working at Gemini
Hockney drawing on a lithographic stone for The Weather Series, 1973. Photograph by Daniel B. Freeman.
View the slideshow below for photographs of Hockney working at Gemini on The Weather Series and a selection of related prints.
Here Hockney works on Rain. Adapting a technique he had used the previous year in his painting Japanese Rain on Canvas, Hockney diluted lithographic ink known as tusche, causing it to spill and trickle down the stone. "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." Gemini printer Ken Tyler stands by with a heat gun.
Hockney experiments using a broom to brush ink onto a lithographic stone, possibly during early stages of Rain’s development.
Hockney working on Snow, with early proofs of Wind on the wall behind him.
Though Hockney recounted seeking out actual weather conditions—“I couldn’t figure out quite how to do everything. I went to Palm Springs and went up to the snow and finally did snow”—he also looked to magazines for inspiration. Here he works on a variant of Lightning, with a reference image visible in the foreground.
While working on The Weather Series, Hockney produced a number of independent variants for publication, including alternate representations of mist and lightning. Proofs of these studies cover the walls in this photograph.
“I did a black version of the mist which looked a bit like smog, but somebody said, ‘No, it looks like . . . Pittsburgh.’ They said it looks like Palm trees in Pittsburgh.”
Hockney also made a number of portraits while at Gemini, a practice he would expand in 1976 to create his Friends series. Ken Tyler, who worked closely with Hockney at Gemini, is shown wearing his printer’s apron, with Hockney’s own Rain depicted on the wall behind. The artist’s description—“It’s not just a portrait of Ken, it’s a portrait of Ken posing for a portrait”—draws a parallel distinction between the subject of weather, and weather drawn.
As demonstrated in Wind, Hockney’s work draws from diverse references, both art historical and personal. While he made frequent self-portraits early in his career, by the 1960s he had shifted to creating portraits of those around him, and obliquely, of his own art. Celia Birtwell, a textile designer and close friend of the artist, poses here with three of Hockney’s prints behind her—Wind, Snow, and Chair-38 The Colony, Malibu.