Eight iconic works of art inspired by stormy weather

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Over the last week, Britain has been buffeted by thunderstorms, the humid August heatwave going out with a literal bang. However, as the UK braces for another round courtesy of Storm Kyle – who is making his way over with the generous promise of torrential rain, 55mph winds and even more flash flooding – it’s important to remember that every cloud has a silver lining. Here are ten iconic artists who have created masterpieces in the wake of raging tempests.

John Constable, Rainstorm over the Sea, 1824-1828

© John Hammond / Royal Academy of Arts

Given the UK’s obsession with the weather, it’s unsurprising that our top pick is the pride of the British Isles, legendary landscape artist John Constable. This particular work eschews the painter’s typical idyllic green pastures for a more minimalistic approach, bringing the rain to life with harsh downward strokes.

Hokusai, Great wave of Kanagawa, 1829-32

Print by Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art

There cannot be many seascapes so widely reproduced as that of Japanese artist Hokusai. This 19th-century woodcut depicts the sheer power of the weather, the hulking waves threatening three small fishing boats and portraying both the beauty and brutality of nature.

Joseph Mallard William Turner, Snowstorm, Steamboat Off a Harbour’s Mouth, 1842

© Tate

Turner’s dynamic canvases, capturing the ephemeral brilliance of churning seas and swirling clouds, are a clear precursor for the impressionists. In this particular piece, we are drawn towards the focal point as to the eye of the storm, where a boat dances with death, illuminated by fire and ice.

Claude Monet, Storm at Belle-Ile, 1886

© National Gallery

Following on from Turner, the Impressionists were keen to sketch out the subtle aesthetic changes caused by constant atmospheric shifts. Monet’s composition focuses in on colour and movement, zooming into the waves as they crash against the coast in foaming white sea spray.

Vincent Van Gogh, Wheatfields Under Thunderclouds, 1890

© Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

This simple yet compelling painting was created in the last weeks of Van Gogh’s life. The wide, empty fields and dark skies convey the sadness and loneliness which plagued the artist, but the deep blue and vivid green brushstrokes also create an invigorating vibrancy.

Edvard Munch, The Storm, 1893

© 2020 The Munch Museum / The Munch-Ellingsen Group / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Completed in the same year as The Scream, this painting is unmistakable in its provenance. The subjects are holding Munch’s trademark pose, hands to their heads, but in this case the women are protecting their ears from the howling winds. The eery composition evokes a remarkable sensation of sound.

Gustav Klimt, Approaching Thunderstorm (The Large Poplar II), 1903

© Leopold Museum, Vienna

Austrian symbolist painter Klimt is known largely for his golden female figures festooned in intricately patterned fabrics. This landscape blends abstract and representational elements to create a textured tableau of a towering poplar tree and ominous, imposing clouds.

Tom Thomson, Approaching Snowstorm, 1915

© National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

Tom Thompson’s depictions of his native landscape revolutionised Canadian culture, inspiring the Canadian Seven and immortalising the wild and unruly vistas of the north. In this painting, a bleak and barren foreground is soon to be swallowed up by the bow of a formidable snowstorm.

Rosamund Kelby


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