Aggiornamento: 18 feb
Rain can symbolize many things. It can represent unhappiness, rebirth, foreboding, determination, the breaking of a drought, and a pause for introspection.It has been used as a symbol for many thousands of years, perhaps most notably in the floods in the bible. What does rain mean to you?
A Loss of Joy – Unlike sunny weather, rain can feel oppressive, gloomy, and joyless. Rain can have a significant effect on people’s mood, as most people often feel unhappy and sad when it rains.
Unpredictability – As an aspect of weather, the rain is unpredictable and sometimes unexpected. It’s viewed as a random event and therefore, signifies unpredictability, flightiness, and randomness.
Rebirth and Renewal – Rain assists vegetation to grow and is a necessary aspect of the cycle of life. This associates it with life, renewal, growth, and new beginnings. Rain on a wedding day is seen as good luck, as it can indicate a new chapter of a successful marriage.
Change and Cleansing – As water that falls from the sky, rain is seen as a natural cleanser. It’s often used as a metaphor for the cleansing of sins and negativity.
Calmness – When it rains, there’s a sense of calm and relaxation. No wonder the sound of rain is often used in meditation, sleep, and study music. Listening to the sounds of water drops falling on roofs, plants, or the ground is pleasant and rhythmic.
Fertility – As mentioned above, rain is necessary for the sustenance of life. A lack of rain results in drought and death. This associates rain with fertility and growth.
Romance - Rain can exaggerate any mood. People can dance, sing and jump in puddles, such as in Singin’ in the Rain. But, it is perhaps most commonly used as an exaggeration device when it comes to romance.
Determination - Characters will often struggle through rain. In such instances, rain is being used to highlight the fact that nothing will stop what is occurring – it will happen regardless of any obstacles. This is well depicted in scenes where characters are shown training by running in the rain, getting ready for their big fight or football meet.
Introspection - Rain may also be used to represent a pause in the action. The rain can come through and force characters to retreat indoors. In these instances, the characters will often be shown drinking tea and looking out the window, waiting for a break in the weather for the next action scene to occur.
Rain at the Cinema
It is frequently used as the culmination or climax of a love story. Here below are some famous rainy kisses. Can you describe any of the scenes? After you’ve watched them, can you compare and link them to the above mentioned definitions?
Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)
Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)
Match Point (2005)
Rain in Mythology
People in ancient civilizations used to attribute different elements of nature to certain gods and goddesses. Almost every civilization around the globe had some deity or personification of the rain and other natural phenomena associated with it. For example, in Greek mythology, Zeus was the god of rain, thunder, and lightning, while in Norse mythology it was Freyr who was seen as the deity of rain. In Hindu mythology, this position was held by the powerful god Indra.
This faith in gods and goddesses made ancient people believe that changes in the weather were related to the mood of the gods and that people could be punished for their misdeeds with drought, storms, and devastating floods. Rain has also featured in the Bible, most notably in the story of Noah and the Ark. God sends a deluge to destroy humanity and rid the world of their sins. In this story, rain served as a symbol of two things:
The power to destroy a world full of sinners
Bringing in a wave of change that Noah and the rest of the survivors brought upon the world
This presents a distinct dichotomy between the rain being a destructive force and a restorative force.
It’s interesting to note that the flood myth, caused by endless rains and instigated with the aim of getting rid of humanity, is quite common in ancient mythologies. It can be found in Chinese, Greek, Norse, and Irish mythologies, among others.
The Deluge (by Michelangelo)
Rain in Literature
In literature, the weather has always been used to set the scene, portraying specific themes or messages that authors want to get across.
Rain is a frequent topic in poetry, as it quickly sets the scene and provides a wealth of emotion.There is rain of all kinds in literature, and we are going to read some examples now.
From Iris Murdoch’s The Sea, The Sea:
The rain came down, straight and silvery, like a punishment of steel rods. It clattered onto the house and onto the rocks and pitted the sea. The thunder made some sounds like grand pianos falling downstairs, then settled to a softer continuous rumble, which was almost drowned by the sound of the rain. The flashes of lightning joined into long illuminations which made the grass a lurid green, the rocks a blazing ochre yellow, as yellow as Gilbert’s car.
From Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore:
In the afternoon dark clouds suddenly color the sky a mysterious shade and it starts raining hard, pounding the roof and windows of the cabin. I strip naked and run outside, washing my face with soap and scrubbing myself all over. It feels wonderful. In my joy I shut my eyes and shout out meaningless words as the large raindrops strike me on the cheeks, the eyelids, chest, side, penis, legs, and butt—the stinging pain like a religious initiation or something. Along with the pain there’s a feeling of closeness, like for once in my life the world’s treating me fairly. I feel elated, as if all of a sudden I’ve been set free. I face the sky, hands held wide apart, open my mouth wide, and gulp down the falling rain.
From Virginia Woolf’s The Years:
It was raining. A fine rain, a gentle shower, was peppering the pavements and making them greasy. Was it worth while opening an umbrella, was it necessary to hail a hansom, people coming out from the theatres asked themselves, looking up at the mild, milky sky in which the stars were blunted. Where it fell on earth, on fields and gardens, it drew up the smell of earth. Here a drop poised on a grass-blade; there filled the cup of a wild flower, till the breeze stirred and the rain was spilt. Was it worth while to shelter under the hawthorn, under the hedge, the sheep seemed to question; and the cows, already turned out in the grey fields, under the dim hedges, munched on, sleepily chewing with raindrops on their hides. Down on the roofs it fell–here in Westminster, there in the Ladbroke Grove; on the wide sea a million points pricked the blue monster like an innumerable shower bath. Over the vast domes, the soaring spires of slumbering University cities, over the leaded libraries, and the museums, now shrouded in brown holland, the gentle rain slid down, till, reaching the mouths of those fantastic laughers, the many-clawed gargoyles, it splayed out in a thousand odd indentations. A drunken man slipping in a narrow passage outside the public house, cursed it. Women in childbirth heard the doctor say to the midwife, “It’s raining.” And the walloping Oxford bells, turning over and over like slow porpoises in a sea of oil, contemplatively intoned their musical incantation. The fine rain, the gentle rain, poured equally over the mitred and the bareheaded with an impartiality which suggested that the god of rain, if there were a god, was thinking Let it not be restricted to the very wise, the very great, but let all breathing kind, the munchers and chewers, the ignorant, the unhappy, those who toil in the furnace making innumerable copies of the same pot, those who bore red hot minds through contorted letters, and also Mrs Jones in the alley, share my bounty.
From James Joyce’s Dubliners:
It was a dark rainy evening and there was no sound in the house. Through one of the broken panes I heard the rain impinge upon the earth, the fine incessant needles of water playing in the sodden beds.
From Charles Dickens’ Bleak House:
The weather had been all the week extremely sultry, but the storm broke so suddenly—upon us, at least, in that sheltered spot—that before we reached the outskirts of the wood the thunder and lightning were frequent and the rain came plunging through the leaves as if every drop were a great leaden bead. As it was not a time for standing among trees, we ran out of the wood, and up and down the moss-grown steps which crossed the plantation-fence like two broad-staved ladders placed back to back, and made for a keeper’s lodge which was close at hand. We had often noticed the dark beauty of this lodge standing in a deep twilight of trees, and how the ivy clustered over it, and how there was a steep hollow near, where we had once seen the keeper’s dog dive down into the fern as if it were water.
The lodge was so dark within, now the sky was overcast, that we only clearly saw the man who came to the door when we took shelter there and put two chairs for Ada and me. The lattice-windows were all thrown open, and we sat just within the doorway watching the storm. It was grand to see how the wind awoke, and bent the trees, and drove the rain before it like a cloud of smoke; and to hear the solemn thunder and to see the lightning; and while thinking with awe of the tremendous powers by which our little lives are encompassed, to consider how beneficent they are and how upon the smallest flower and leaf there was already a freshness poured from all this seeming rage which seemed to make creation new again.
From Elizabeth Hardwick’s Sleepless Nights:
Sometimes the rain was beautiful. The lavender and silver streaks, gleaming in the mud, seek to be honored, to receive some word of gratitude. The kindness of damp afternoons, the solace of opening the door and finding everyone there.
What next? Where to? Even in the midst of it all, in the devoted warmth, the well-disposed threat of familiarity, the cemetery waits to be desecrated.
From Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon:
She was thoroughly soaked before she realized it was raining and then only because one of the shopping bags split. When she looked down, her Evan-Picone white-with-a-band-of-color skirt was lying in a neat half fold on the shoulder of the road, and she was far far from home. She put down both bags, picked the skirt up and brushed away the crumbs of gravel that stuck to it. Quickly she refolded it, but when she tried to tuck it back into the shopping bag, the bag collapsed altogether. Rain soaked her hair and poured down her neck as she stooped to repair the damage. She pulled out the box of Con Brios, a smaller package of Van Raalte gloves, and another containing her fawn-trimmed-in-sea-foam shortie nightgown. These she stuffed into the other bag. Retracing hers steps, she found herself unable to carry the heavier bag in one hand, so she hoisted it up to her stomach and hugged it with both arms. She had gone hardly ten yards when the bottom fell out of it. Hagar tripped on Jungle Red (Sculptura) and Youth Blend, and to her great dismay, saw her box of Sunny Glow toppling into a puddle. She collected Jungle Red and Youth Blend safely, but Sunny Glow, which had tipped completely over and lost its protective disk, exploded in light peach puffs under the weight of the raindrops. Hagar scraped up as much of it as she could and pressed the wilted cellophane disk back into the box.
From J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye:
Boy, it began to rain like a bastard. In buckets, I swear to God. All the parents and mothers and everybody went over and stood right under the roof of the carrousel, so they wouldn’t get soaked to the skin or anything, but I stuck around on the bench for quite a while. I got pretty soaking wet, especially my neck and my pants. My hunting hat really gave me quite a lot of protection, in a way; but I got soaked anyway. I didn’t care, though. I felt so damn happy all of a sudden, the way old Phoebe kept going around and around. I was damn near bawling, I felt so damn happy, if you want to know the truth. I don’t know why. It was just that she looked so damn nice, the way she kept going around and around, in her blue coat and all. God, I wish you could’ve been there.
From William Shakespeare’s King Lear:
Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! Rage, blow! You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout Till you have drenched our steeples, drowned the cocks! You sulfurous and thought-executing fires, 5Vaunt-couriers of oak-cleaving thunderbolts, Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder, Smite flat the thick rotundity o’ th’ world, Crack nature’s molds, all germens spill at once That make ingrateful man!
From Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd:
The air changed its temperature and stirred itself more vigorously. Cool breezes coursed in transparent eddies round Oak’s face. The wind shifted yet a point or two and blew stronger. In ten minutes every wind of heaven seemed to be roaming at large. Some of the thatching on the wheat-stacks was now whirled fantastically aloft, and had to be replaced and weighted with some rails that lay near at hand. This done, Oak slaved away again at the barley. A huge drop of rain smote his face, the wind snarled round every corner, the trees rocked to the bases of their trunks, and the twigs clashed in strife. Driving in spars at any point and on any system, inch by inch he covered more and more safely from ruin this distracting impersonation of seven hundred pounds. The rain came on in earnest, and Oak soon felt the water to be tracking cold and clammy routes down his back. Ultimately he was reduced well-nigh to a homogeneous sop, and the dyes of his clothes trickled down and stood in a pool at the foot of the ladder. The rain stretched obliquely through the dull atmosphere in liquid spines, unbroken in continuity between their beginnings in the clouds and their points in him.
Rain in Music
Purple Rain - Prince
I never meant to cause you any sorrow
I never meant to cause you any pain
I only wanted one time to see you laughing
I only want to see you laughing
In the purple rain
Purple rain, purple rain
Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head - BJ Thomas
Those raindrops are falling on my head, they keep falling
But there's one thing I know
The blues they send to meet me
Won't defeat me, it won't be long
Till happiness steps up to greet me
Have You Ever Seen The Rain? - Creedence Clearwater Revival
I wanna know, have you ever seen the rain?
I wanna know, have you ever seen the rain?
Comin' down on a sunny day?
Fool in the Rain - Led Zeppelin
Now I will stand in the rain on the corner
I watch the people go shuffling downtown
Another ten minutes no longer
And then I'm turning around, 'round
And the clock on the wall's moving slower
Oh, my heart it sinks to the ground
And the storm that I thought would blow over
Clouds the light of the love that I found, found
Light of the love that I found
November Rain- Guns ’n’ Roses
When I look into your eyes
I can see a love restrained
But darlin' when I hold you
Don't you know I feel the same?
Nothin' lasts forever
And we both know hearts can change
And it's hard to hold a candle
In the cold November rain
I'll Take the Rain - REM
I used to think
As birds take wing
They sing through life so why cant we?
You cling to this
You claim your best
If this is what you’re offering
I'll take the rain
I'll take the rain
I'll take the rain
Riders on the Storm - The Doors
Girl, you gotta love your man
Girl, you gotta love your man
Take him by the hand
Make him understand
The world on you depends
Our life will never end
Gotta love your man, yeah
Rain - The Beatles
Can you hear me? That when it rains and shines (when it rains and shines) It's just a state of mind (when it rains and shines) Can you hear me? Can you hear me?
… and Rain in Art
Describe and comment some of the paintings below
Gustave Caillebotte’s (1848–1894) best-known work is Paris Street; Rainy Day, a massive 1877 oil painting on canvas. It depicts a group of people going through the Place de Dublin, originally known as the Carrefour de Moscou, at a junction in north Paris east of the Gare Saint-Lazare.
Although Caillebotte was a friend and patron of many impressionist artists, and this piece is included in that school, it varies in its realism and focus on line rather than sweeping brush strokes.
Caillebotte’s fascination with photography is palpable. The individuals in the front look “out of focus,” those in the middle distance (the carriage and pedestrians at the junction) have crisp edges, and the characteristics in the distant get more blurry.
The harsh cropping of several characters, notably the guy on the far right, demonstrates the effect of photography.
The picture debuted at the Third Impressionist Exhibition in 1877. The Art Institute of Chicago now owns it.
Rain is an oil-on-canvas work by Vincent van Gogh that was completed in 1889 when he was a volunteer patient at a hospital in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence.
He painted the scene outside his chamber window many times, portraying the hues and tints of the fields and hills near Saint-Rémy as they looked at different times of day and in different weather situations.
Van Gogh was a volunteer patient at the Asylum of Saint-Paul-de-Mausole, a former monastery in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, from May 1889 to May 1890. During his stay in the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole hospital, Van Gogh was particularly taken by a field behind the hospital that was surrounded by walls, which he represented in a sequence of at least 14 paintings and just as many sketches. He captured the area at various times of day and seasons.
Rain was painted on an untreated cotton canvas in November 1889, possibly during a period of heavy rain on October 31, 1889. Van Gogh depicted the rain as slanted lines that were angled differently from the lines in the wheat field in the backdrop. He was inspired by Japanese prints while producing this look.
Rain is housed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the United States and measures 73.3 cm 92.4 cm (28.9 in 36.4 in).
Rain, Steam, and Speed – The Great Western Railway is an oil painting by J. M. W. Turner, a 19th-century British painter.
The artwork was initially shown at the Royal Academy in 1844, however it might have been done earlier. It is presently housed at the National Gallery in London.
Turner’s painting offers the sense of immense speed in a static work, which separated him from other painters. The piece mixes the force of nature and technology to generate an emotional tension linked with the sublime notion.
The picture was completed around the conclusion of the Industrial Revolution, which saw a significant transition in the Victorian era from an agricultural economy to one dominated by machine manufacture.
The railway was one of the most powerful symbols of industrialization, since this new mode of transportation had a significant impact on both industrial and social life.
Turner seemed to be a generation ahead of other artists since he was one of the few painters at the time who saw industrial progress as a worthy topic of art.
The Umbrellas is an 1880s oil-on-canvas work by Pierre-Auguste Renoir that was completed in two stages.
It is held by the National Gallery in London as part of the Lane Bequest, however it is alternatively shown in London and at the Hugh Lane City Gallery in Dublin. It returned to Dublin for a six-year stint from May 2013 to 2019. It is presently on display in the National Gallery in London.
Renoir started the picture about 1880–81, using the free brushwork with dark and brilliant tones that was characteristic of the Impressionist style.
After abandoning Impressionism and drawing inspiration from classical art he saw in Italy and the works of Ingres and Cézanne, he reworked parts of the painting, particularly the main female figure to the left of the frame, in a more classical linear style using more muted colors, and added the background and the umbrellas themselves, around 1885.
Seascape Study with Rain Cloud is a Romantic oil on paper work by John Constable that was completed in 1827. It is now housed in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Between 1824 and 1828, John Constable made many visits to Brighton, where he stayed with his family because his wife, who suffered from TB, benefitted from the sea air.
Constable disliked living in the loud, fancy resort. He did, however, spend many hours painting the water while lounging on the beach.
Monet’s two-month vacation on the island of Belle-Ile, off the coast of Brittany, resulted in Belle-Ile, rain effect.
He was enthralled by ‘this terrible place,’ where massive granite outcrops had been twisted into strange forms by the unyielding powers of wind and sea.
Monet continued extending his stay in order to capture the impact of shifting coastal light on these natural features, as well as the ceaseless seas washing around them.
Landscape at Auvers in the Rain is an oil on canvas work by Vincent van Gogh, a Dutch Post-Impressionist painter.
It portrays a scene near Auvers-sur-Oise, where van Gogh spent the final years of his life, and was finished only three days before his death in July 1890.
Van Gogh created thirteen double-square paintings of landscapes in and around Auvers between June 17 and July 27. The representation of rain with dark, diagonal lines is said to be influenced by Japanese art, notably Hiroshige’s woodcuts.
It also demonstrates van Gogh’s artwork’s visceral link between nature and emotion, as well as artistic developments such as a heightened horizon line, expressive brushstrokes, and vivid colors.
I hope you've enjoyed this brief study, and that you might perceive the rain the same way some of the artists mentioned did. Feel the rain!
Riccardo Zambon, Feb 4, 2023