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Weather Series

David Hockney has long been fascinated with Japanese art and culture, and nowhere is this more evident than in his 1973 suite, The Weather Series. Hockney was also particularly taken by the woodblock printing tradition and many of the prints in this series reference the Ukiyo-e style, and particularly the work of Japanese masters Hokusai and Hiroshige.

David Hockney The Weather Series for sale

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Meaning & Analysis

Hockney’s striking 1973 suite, The Weather Series, captures the artist’s long-time fascination with Japan and Japanese culture.

Hockney first visited Japan in 1971 after breaking up with Peter Schlesinger. This trip inspired paintings such as Mount Fuji and Flowers and his famous photo collages of the Zen Garden at the Ryoanji Temple in Kyoto. Hockney was also particularly taken by the woodblock printing tradition and many of the prints in this series reference the Ukiyo-e style, and particularly the work of Japanese masters Hokusai and Hiroshige.

Works such as Snow and Rain from the series feel very close to this tradition, with their evocative and yet minimal scenes of water in its various states, while elsewhere Hockney’s unique vision of LA filters through. Works such as Mist feature the city’s iconic palm trees – while at the same time referencing Monet’s painting of poplar trees along the River Epte – and Wind depicts a road sign for Melrose Avenue, placing us squarely on the west coast.

Wind also reminds us of Hockney’s love for self-referencing and doubling – seen in earlier series such as A Hollywood Collection – as he depicts prints from the series being blown away into the sky in a reference to Hokusai’s Ejiri in the Suruga Province (a work that would also later be referenced by photographer Jeff Wall). For the Sun print of the series, Hockney has chosen a classic subject from his oeuvre, a still life in a bright interior, where a plant basks in rays of sunlight that complement the lines of the shutters just behind. Finally, in Lightning we catch a glimpse of his unmistakable landscape style, featuring a winding road and hills on either side, a composition he favoured for his later depictions of Yorkshire as well as Southern California. This work, the only monochrome piece of the series, and dominated by a lightning bolt that adds instant narrative to the scene, recalls his 1969 series of etchings, Illustrations For Six Fairy Tales From The Brothers Grimm.

10 Facts About David Hockney's The Weather Series

David Hockney's Snow. A landscape setting of snow in the style of Ukiyo-e.

Snow © David Hockney 1973

1. The Weather Series is largely informed by the Japanese woodblock printing tradition, Ukiyo-e

David Hockney's The Weather Series has been largely influenced and inspired by the Japanese woodblock printing tradition, especially the Ukiyo-e style, a prominent art form between the 17th and 19th centuries in Japan. The Ukiyo-e style is characterised by its intricate detailing and the evocative portrayal of nature, folklore, and everyday life. Two standout pieces from this collection, Snow and Rain, epitomise this influence. In Snow, Hockney employs a design element frequently observed in Ukiyo-e prints, to suggest depth and spatial recession. Rain, on the other hand, showcases delicate variations of water, quite similar to the way Ukiyo-e masters portrayed water across different settings.

David Hockney's Lightning. A monochromatic print of a bolt of lightning jolting from the sky above a dark landscape.

Lightning © David Hockney 1973

2. Hockney utilises colour to shift moods throughout the series

While this series overall leans towards quieter, more subdued colours, Lightning disrupts this calm, acting as a jolt of intensity amidst the tranquillity of its sister prints. The monochromatic hues enhance the atmospheric tension, drawing the viewer into the scene and magnifying the elemental force it represents. His colour choice for those works in particular really point to Hockney’s genius: he can pivot from a serene palette to arresting drama, displaying his understanding of how colour can evoke or even shift emotion in art.

David Hockney's Sun.  A woodblock print of a small plant on the edge of a table with sun light covering it from the left side.

Sun © David Hockney 1973

3. Japanese masters Hokusai and Hiroshige's work influenced this series

Two of the most renowned Ukiyo-e masters were the source of inspiration behind this collection of Japanese woodblock prints. Hokusai's legacy, perhaps best known for The Great Wave Off Kanagawa, exhibits meticulous details and a deep appreciation for the grandeur of nature and the elements. Hiroshige, celebrated for his Fifty-Three Stations Of The Tōkaidō, offered culturally-rich landscapes that bridge the realms of realism and abstraction. These elements—the reverence for their surroundings and attention to detail—are gracefully mirrored in this collection.

David Hockney's Dark Mist. A print of three palm trees in front of a building, covered by mist with a dark grey overcast

Dark Mist © David Hockney 1973

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