Don’t know why
There’s no sun up in the sky
Since my man and I ain’t together
Keeps raining all the time
When Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler wrote Stormy Weather in 1933 they probably weren’t thinking about the Pathetic Fallacy. The idea that the weather, and nature as a whole, could share the same emotions as us, the human occupants of the planet, was, of course, particularly prevalent for the Romantics in the first half of the 19th Century, when it wasn’t uncommon for clouds to be lonely, especially given that, not so far away, daffodils were clearly so gregarious. The term itself, ‘the Pathetic Fallacy’, was coined by none other than John Ruskin, artist, author and all-round thinker. I’d call him a Renaissance Man if he hadn’t been such an advocate of the pre-Raphaelites (so, an ‘Early Renaissance Man’?), or for that matter, of the Neo-Gothic. ‘Gothic’ was, for him, the only truly Christian form of architecture. But I digress. I had started, though, so I’ll finish. Ruskin introduced the term in Volume 3 of his Modern Painters, published in 1856, which is, I suspect, a little late to be relevant to our Lent painting, given that I have already suggested that the naturalistic details and particular form of modelling in light and shade suggest that it is a work from the 15th or 16th Centuries.
Having said that, I can’t help thinking that these clouds look a little ominous – i.e. ‘giving the worrying impression that something bad is going to happen’ – from ‘omen’, of course. Now, when we say that clouds look ominous, I think we usually mean that it is going to rain. It is possible, though, that this particular meteorological phenomenon could portend some other ‘bad’ event. The Pathetic Fallacy wasn’t the exclusive reserve of the Romantics, after all, going back centuries and lasting – via 1933 and ‘Stormy Weather’ – up until the present day. Here is a completely unnecessary list of the Top Weather Songs of the 21st Century, just to prove the point. Or maybe, as far as our painting is concerned, this is just what the weather was like when the artist went to work.