From the late 1930s to the mid-1940s, Dove's approach became more intellectual and objective as he experimented further with abstraction and with spatial, geometric, and color relationships. Although he still gained initial inspiration from nature and continued to paint in an intuitive manner, he now reduced elements to their simplest forms and either stressed flatness or spatial ambiguity. He de-emphasized the descriptive details, inner energies, or poetry of the subject and focused on the arrangement of forms in space and the selection of colors.
Rain or Snow was painted in Centerport while Dove was confined to his home because of deteriorating health. It may represent a winter storm that he viewed from his window. In a probable attempt to defy the two-dimensional picture plane, Dove transformed the painting itself into a "window" by applying aluminum strips to either side of the canvas. Within this framework, luminous, transparent, and rectangular shapes suggesting clouds or large snowflakes drift and overlap in a void. Additional elements of an outdoor scene are suggested by diagonal brown strips (branches) and thin, vertical lines (streaks of rain). Beyond the framing device are bands of open space rendered in various colors and shapes. Phillips admired the painting, stating, "The space, the balance and directions are all perfect and the aesthetic joy comes from a personal experience in nature."