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Colours of Autumn and How the Changing Seasons have Influenced Art Through History

Posted on October 15, 2021 by Laura - | 0 comments

As we make our way through October, the glorious colours of Autumn start to transform the landscape, and the spectacular scenery and changing colours of our local New Forest National Park is hard to top.

The woodlands and hedgerows are abundant with colour, from deeply hued plump ripened berries and chestnuts, to the fiery glow of leaves as their green pigment breaks down, revealing the red and yellow tints below.

It is hard to ignore such vivid visual reminders of our ever changing environment, and it's no surprise then that the advance of the seasons has long been a source of inspiration for creative types.

Autumn demonstrates the changeability of life, the eternal life cycle, and how beautiful it is to let go, and William Butler Yeats' poem The Wild Swans at Coole describes with lyrical imagery the pain of loss and change that the season brings, balanced with its beauty:

"The trees are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine-and-fifty swans.
The nineteenth autumn has come upon me
Since I first made my count;
I saw, before I had well finished,
All suddenly mount
And scatter wheeling in great broken rings
Upon their clamorous wings...
But now they drift on the still water,
Mysterious, beautiful;
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake's edge or pool
Delight men's eyes when I awake some day
To find they have flown away?"

Poets, musicians and painters have all been moved by the season throughout history. You may recognise 16th Century Mannerist painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s curious cornucopic portrait Autumn, from 1573 in which he uses seasonal elements to comprise his composition (his previous seasonal pieces Spring, Summer and Winter were created 10 years earlier in 1563 and followed the same artistic structure). This richly atmospheric oil painting utilises the Mannerist portrayal of the relationship between humans and nature by fusing still life and portraiture. It depicts a male head study formed from a glut of autumnal harvest fruits and vegetables including rosy apples, undulating gourds, twisting grape vines and plump fungi. This beautifully abundant piece can be seen hanging on the walls of the Louvre Museum in Paris.

In 1873 Impressionist artist Claude Monet painted Autumn on the Seine at Argenteuil. The zesty palette used for the trees lining the river's edge contrast the otherwise pale blue tones of the piece, and dominate the composition – with the recognisable Argenteuil cityscape disappearing into the background
against the Autumnal foreground. The heavy reflection of the copper coloured leaves in the Seine seems to reflect how heavily the season has influenced the painting.

Austrian Expressionist painter Egon Schiele, more usually known for using themes of eroticism in his work, created the eye-catching piece Four Trees in 1917, the style of which transforms its standard subject matter of a simple landscape into a vibrant and expressive allegory. One of the central trees looks distinctly unhealthy, whilst the three russet hued trees on the outer edge of the composition are fuller and more rich with colour. It has been the subject of some discussion that the artist's message was to allude to the 'healthier' approach to life as being on the outside of society rather than following a more
mainstream route. The swirling yellow and orange sunset sky reflects the influence of the autumnal colour palette.

The call of the wild and influence of the seasons continues to stir artists to this day, with contemporary paintings, like Forest Gaze by Anthony Dobson, abundant in its rejoicing of the Fall cast, the regal red stag standing proud against the rich russet forest, washed with soft golden sunlight.

Contemporary Scottish artist Heather M Nisbet has composed a striking and colourfully simplistic depiction of patchwork fields in warm reds, yellows and oranges in Autumn in the Village. Visit our website to find this, and the rest of her vibrant landscape limited editions.

You may be lucky enough in autumn to see hedgehogs snuffling in the undergrowth for bugs and worms to fatten up on before their hibernation. The charming limited edition prints Henry & Hattie and Prickles by popular animal artists Bev Davies and Aaminah Snowdon respectively depict a cosy hog pair nuzzled against one another, and a hedgehog parent and offspring sharing a tender glance. The classically understated tones and earthy colour palette are perfect for depicting the elusive wildlife subjects. You will find both these pieces in Aaminah and Bev's latest collection of art, all available on our website.

Sam Toft print Until We Meet Again is a sweetly melancholic image of an embracing couple (Sam's infamous Mr and Mrs Mustard) and their furry companions bidding farewell to a flock of birds, set against a deep orange background. The narrative composition and use of Fall colours perfectly reflects the sentiment of the autumn season, waving goodbye to the summer as their friends fly south for the winter, yet looking fondly to the future. This wonderful print is one of many available in Sam's collection on our website.

We hope this has inspired you to make the most of this spectacular time of year. Take a walk through the colourful trees, with the crunch of leaves beneath your feet, and nip of first frost in the air. Maybe you'll pay a visit to the stunning New Forest. And if you do, be sure to pop in to our Sculpture Garden and Gallery to enjoy a browse through our collection of sculpture, limited edition prints and original paintings.

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