Catalogue entry

T03798 Snow, Sunshine, Rain 1957

Oil on canvas 48 × 86 (1220 × 2190)
Inscribed ‘Snow. Sunshine. Rain.’ at lower edge
Presented anonymously 1983
Prov: Acquired by the donor from the Beaux Art Gallery
Exh: Heinz Koppel, Beaux Arts Gallery, May–June 1958 (26)

‘Snow, Sunshine, Rain’ has a complex subject which was not discussed by the artist. This entry is based on conversations with his widow and with his pupil and friend Charles Burton. The date of the painting is given in the catalogue of the Beaux Arts Gallery exhibition.

Each detail of the painting had for the artist a specific meaning, although this is as likely to have been found after it was finished as before. There are several large paintings by Koppel like this in which the subject is seen in separate compartments, which were intended to be seen both as a sequence in time and all together. The precedent for this work is ‘Merthyr Blues’ (1955–6, oil on canvas, private collection, America. Repr. Heinz Koppel, Beaux Arts Gallery 1958 (25)). Both paintings show parts of Merthyr Tydfil and its suburb Dowlais, where the artist lived from 1944 to 1956, and both have a foreground that is part of, yet separate from, each of the three main compartments. In a large drawing for ‘Merthyr Blues’ the compartments are labelled ‘Ego, Superego, Id’, yet in the painting these names are omitted and replaced with lines from pop songs (‘I could go for you baby’ and ‘I wanna be good, moima’), so the subject was evidently considered by the artist both in terms of psychoanalysis and of local popular culture. In the foreground the artist's corgi is shown four times, walking from left to right or being thrown to the ground, possibly with reference to Koppel's own movements, and comparable to the car in the foreground of ‘Snow, Sunshine, Rain’.

Koppel often painted landscapes which refer to his life in places which he had left, and he had moved to London in 1956, the year before he painted Dowlais in ‘Snow, Sunshine, Rain’. In the foreground, separated by design and colour from the larger part of the canvas is a bridal couple, seated with a chauffeur and another man in a wedding car decorated with ribbons. At the centre of the painting a bird opens its beak to catch a butterfly, which possibly refers to its name in German ‘vogeln’, meaning in slang to make love. Behind the bird a girl talks to a man on a bicycle, the outlines of both figures merged into one. It is likely that the different types of weather of each section refer also to the mood of the onlooker, or of the artist, as in ‘Merthyr Blues’. It has been suggested that there are figures deliberately hidden within the painting, intended to be understood subliminally, particularly in the snow scene a face on the roof looking at a female nude drawn in the snow on the road.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1982-84: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1986