A look at rain’s role in famous artwork

Rain has been as much a part of art as a part of our world.


With snowy weather on its way out of Holland, a not-so-new form of precipitation is taking its place: rain. In many places, rain and cloudy weather are inherent to the spring season, and it is not only life itself that recognizes this recurrent phenomenon. Artwork has seen its share of rain, for so much of art has been a reflection of what humans know and experience. There are many paintings and pieces featuring rain that are actually quite famous and well renowned, several of them representing rain in their own styles and tones.


One of the most recognized rainy-day paintings in the last two centuries was French painter Gustave Caillebotte’s “Paris Street; Rainy Day” from 1877. At just over 83 inches tall by 108 wide, this oil on canvas painting was one of the 29-year-old impressionist’s many pieces. Caillebotte captures the sense of detachment that lots of Parisians felt about the new and confusing boulevards being built throughout the city. Though a very detailed piece for old impressionist artwork, his usage of neutral and dulled colors reflects accurately on both the sentiments of the inhabitants at the time and the overall gray that is cloudy weather.

HIGH DEFINITION – Unlike common impressionist pieces of the day, “Paris Street; Rainy Day” shows a very high amount of detail and lighting.


Another famous art piece on the subject of rain was Dutch post-impressionist Vincent van Gogh’s 1887 “Bridge in the Rain (after Hiroshige).” Also an oil on canvas piece from the impressionist movement, this painting was heavily inspired by traditional Japanese artwork, especially those of Hiroshige, explaining the title. In it, those crossing the bridge are shielding themselves from the rain. At just over 28 inches by 21 inches, van Gogh painted thin, dark-colored strokes to represent the rain drops themselves with the painting having an emphasis on the greens and blues of downpours. Van Gogh may have never received the fame he wanted within his lifetime, but his rainy and non-rainy pieces are in high accord as of now.

UNKNOWN FACES – Vincent van Gogh’s piece only shows the covered heads of the painted individuals, leaving the rain itself as the main concern for viewers, not their identities.


The third piece by American post-impressionist Frederick Childe Hassam is “The Avenue in the Rain” from 1917. Depicting a scene on Fifth Avenue in New York City, this piece is one of six works by Hassam in the White House’s permanent art collection. Hassam had actually grown up and worked in the New England area for many years, so his piece was somewhat of a “shout out” to the area he grew up in. His parents had not taken much notice when Hassam first started to show his personal aptitude in art as a child, though they themselves had artistic sides and interests of their own. His piece, one of thirty composing his “Flag series” in his later career, comes out to about 42 inches tall by 22.25 inches wide, done using oil on canvas. Unlike the previous paintings, the long paint strokes of dark color and blurred silhouettes recreate the distortion many of us experience ourselves when trekking through heavy rainfall.

DISTORTION- Frederick Childe Hassam captures both the colors and the sensation of rain in his piece.


Whether it be snow, wind, rain, sun or storm, the matters of the skies have always been a part of artistic history. These meteorological forces shape our daily lives, and it is our lives that shape our artwork. As long as rain continues to fall and artists continue to create, the rain shall always be one of the many beautiful themes within art.



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