Sue Slick, Collections Information Specialist
“Everyone complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.”
– Charles Dudley WarnerThe Hartford Courant, Hartford, Connecticut, August 27, 1897
It’s springtime, season of greening and blooming; and in Indiana, it’s also the season of dramatic thunderstorms. Of course, in any season and any locale, what do we love to talk about? The weather! We’re well acquainted with the paintings of weather by Winslow Homer and J.M.W. Turner, but there are many more who made prints, paintings, and drawings of weather. Here are some favorite weather images, from both outside and inside our collection.
I was going through some of the museum’s old library materials lately and came across a 1937 reproduction of John Steuart Curry’s painting, Line Storm. Remember the derecho of June 2012?
Curry portrays a scary scene of a massive storm front descending on a bucolic landscape. A growling dark monster of cloud against a green sky dominates the horizon. Huge lightning bolts descend from the ominous heavens. The storm is clearly moving fast, and threatens a fully loaded hay wagon drawn by two mules dashing for a red barn down the hill. The lush green plain of farm fields and homes appear as refuges from the approaching weather, even though they are directly in its path. There are glints of sunshine on the spinning windmill blades and on the telephone poles lining the farm roads, and even on the gleaming white sleeves of the workers in the hay wagon. They may have just enough time to reach safety before the storm arrives! The artist captures one of his favorite subjects: the tension of the dynamic moment along with the sensations of this frightening weather event. You can almost hear the roar of the wind, rumbling thunder, and the crack of lightning striking.
Curry’s dramatic scene of man against nature aligns with many of his other works. He often included weather as an important element – almost a character – in many of his paintings and prints. Curry was a farm boy raised on the Kansas prairie where weather was one of the most important aspects of life, day in and day out. How many of his works portray storms? Tornadoes? Quite a few! If you are ever at the Muskegon Museum of Art look for his painting Tornado, where mother, father, and children scramble for the root cellar with the family pets as a twister approaches their farm.
Curry wasn’t the only American artist who was fascinated with weather. Another was American Regionalist and watercolorist Charles Burchfield (1893-1967). Burchfield, an Ohio native, had a deep affinity for all of nature, including all forms of weather. Another Midwesterner familiar with rain, snow, blazing heat, sundogs, and moon haloes — he painted them all! Burchfield was well known for his portrayal of gritty American life: the working class and their homes, streets, and alleys. His foray into fleeting weather conditions, the sounds and motions of nature, seemed to be a more personal exploration, reaching into the mystical and abstract. In 2012, the Burchfield Penney Art Center at Buffalo State College even curated an exhibit around Burchfield’s weather-centric works. Weather Event included scientific data, maps, and input from meteorologists alongside Burchfield’s watercolors, sketches, and journal entries of his own observations of the weather. What weather is depicted in the work from the FWMoA collection shown below?
Looking through our collection database I see quite a few more paintings and prints that depict weather – not just serene snowy landscapes or blazing autumn woodlands but rain, wind, fog, snowfall, and misty moonlight.
In April Gornik’s Expanding Storm, the might of a tempest is captured in this large drawing.
In Robert Kipniss’ breezy lithograph, Flying Leaves, we can “see” the wind.
We also have two pieces with the title, The Storm — one by Dong Kingman and the other by Rockwell Kent. Both are dramatic night scenes. Kent’s storm is so fierce it distorts the small house that leans before the fury of the storm that has broken the crown of a mighty tree while in Kingman’s scene a lighthouse stands steadfast while seabirds fly above pitching waves.
Fort Wayne native George Gawehn (1887-1976) expertly portrayed the local weather right here in downtown Fort Wayne. Gawehn seemed as much a fan of weather as any, given his several portrayals of storms in the city. Summer Storm proves Gawehn’s ability to illustrate weather phenomena as well as urban architecture.
Another local artist who was a prolific painter of landscapes was Louis Bonsib .His skills as a watercolorist and painter of nature are evident in his Fog in the Mountains. Mr. Bonsib also possessed astute business skills and lent those to the board of trustees of the Fort Wayne Art School and Museum – one of several city leaders who led the school and museum through the Depression years. The Fort Wayne Museum of Art has over 40 Bonsib’s in the collection!
Another weather-centric print from our collection is The Deluge. In this rural scene, it seems a trailing storm front has unleashed a cloudburst on an already sodden hedgerow. Is it early spring, when the trees are just beginning to burst with foliage? This artful portrayal of a passing moment evokes the smell of the thawing earth and the chill of cold rain. Sadly, we have no information about this skilled printmaker, Alex Walker. In Paul Brach’s drawing, Ridge, we witness the ominous power of heavy rain in the high desert as a downpour darkens a ridge of mesas.
What is the weather like where you are today?