“Rainy Season in the Tropics” is one of the most celebrated works by the second-generation Hudson River School artist Frederic Edwin Church. Despite being a highly theatrical, fantastical, and symbolic landscape, the scene incorporates a number of scientifically accurate and observed elements. The double rainbow that spans the canvas, notable for the reversal of the color spectrum that occurs in the second of its two bands, is technically known as Alexander’s band, and Church’s meticulous depiction of it suggests that he may have consulted a scientific treatise when painting the scene.
Furthermore, the tropical fauna emerging from the bottom right corner of the painting is based on botanical sketches Church made while living in Jamaica. Church and his wife retreated to the island in 1865 after the deaths of their two children from diphtheria, but when they returned to the United States the following year they were expecting a child. Many scholars interpret “Rainy Season in the Tropics” as a reflection of Church’s renewed optimism, both about his personal life and about a spirit of national unity following the end of the American Civil War.