The autumn months provide a chance for artists to consider the idea of transition and decay, along with constancy and plenty. The outside world provides rich golds, reds, yellows and browns which are a gift for a landscape painter, and the subject has been tackled masterfully by the likes of Monet in his magnificent rendering of leaves floating upon the Seine, as well as John Constable’s mournful depiction of Sir Joshua Reynold’s cenotaph.
Celebration of Harvest
There is, however, an air of celebration to the autumn months, and this is also depicted vividly. With the harvest and the accompanying festivals throughout history, civilisation has often regarded the autumn months as one in which the year’s work comes to a glorious fruition, with a more pessimistic descent into winter being a more modern idea.
In George Weissbort’s ‘Arrangement with Apples and Pears and a Glazed Jug‘, for example, the observer is immediately struck by the warmth and brightness of the piece: its yellow, white and brown colours allowing for a comforting backdrop to the plump, shining apples and pears that are so attractively arranged. The painting is one of abundance and contentment.
Hint of Darkness
Vanessa Garwood takes a different approach to the season in her melancholic depiction of woodland in ‘Spain: Trees and Shadows‘. Brown leaves are contrasted with a spectrum of green ones that are representative of transition, whilst the darkness in the woods behind provide an ominous feeling.
Garwood’s depiction of the Spanish woodland is not one that is usual in the country’s depiction: the piece is far away from the bold reds and yellows associated with the country’s flamboyant reputation. It hints at something darker, as Spanish art has often done since its devastating civil war; the autumn here is indicative of sadness and the irreversible passing of time.
Hugh Wilkinson’s 1909 work ‘View of a New Forest Stream‘ takes into account both the pessimism and optimism of the season, with its beautiful sky duplicated in the water and its browning trees in the background. This is a work that depicts autumn with less of an agenda, at least on a cosmetic level, imploring the viewer of the painting to draw their own conclusions as to what it means to them.
A mixture of greens and blues represent the remnants of the summer months, whereas the autumn is rendered vividly with darker shades of grey, brown and black, offering a chance to look forward and backwards at once.
Autumn’s transitionary nature, as well as its connections to decay and change, inspire many artists to create truly stunning works of art – especially because this season represents the transience of beauty, even youth, which appeals to humans at an extremely deep level.