As we wave goodbye to Summer and the temperatures begin to cool it's a sure thing that Autumn is around the corner. The bold bright colours of summer blooms give way to the autumnal oranges, reds and golden browns of the penultimate season of the year and as usual, nature has an effortless ability to lazily glide into its new wardrobe with such grace that it happens right in front of our eyes. As we go about our daily business, we don’t even notice until the leaves have had their make-over and are proudly showing off their new look. It stands to reason that many artists are influenced by this ever-changing colour palette that our planet offers up each year.
Claud Monet’s relationship with nature is well known. A vast number of his pieces depict the natural world and the colours of the seasons. ‘Autumn on the Seine at Argenteuil’ from 1873 is a fantastic example of his ability to capture the change of season. The eye is drawn to the left side of the painting by the scorching autumn leaves standing tall along the Seine, mirrored in its rippled surface, while across the water on the opposite bank the colours of summer, greens, violets and blues retreat, giving way gently to the strength of the oncoming Autumn. The weather in this remarkable artwork is tangible and it's easy to imagine being stood on the banks of the Seine in Argenteuil on a sunny autumn day.
Fast forward to 1902 and autumnal hues have inspired Gustav Klimt as he produces the beautiful ‘Birch Forest’. Much of Klimt’s work features shimmering gold tones, but this piece in particular allows the fiery colours of Autumn to really shine. The contrast is stark between the black and white Birch trunks and the carpet of orange and yellow leaves upon which they stand, spread across the forest floor as far as the eye can see.
Georgia O’Keffee’s depiction of Autumn just over 20 years later took a slightly different approach. ‘Autumn Leaves’ from 1924 shows the full spectrum of Spring to Autumn colours on a singular leaf, resting on top of a bed of leaves that have almost all already transitioned to their autumn colours.
The last whispers of summer cling to the fallen leaf as it settles among its kinfolk and awaits the winter months. O’keffee revelled in the passing of Summer to Autumn. The fallen leaves variation in colour and shape appealed to her eye, especially the autumnal foliage’s palette of browns and red as was prominent in many of her leaf paintings.
Some of our own artists right here at the St Mawes Gallery have been inspired by the oncoming season. ‘Autumn at Respryn’ by Wendy Parkyn follows in the footsteps of Monet’s Argenteuil scene. A serene river mirrors the forest’s transformation from bustling summer to the bare branches of late Autumn. Parkyn’s use of acrylic gives the painting a beautiful texture that captures the undulating muddy banks perfectly. As with Monet’s piece there is no mistaking the season, Autumn is upon us.
David Gray’s ‘Quiet Stroll’ moves the scene away from nature and into the man-made city streets. The clock tower, arched bridges, red buses and paved promenade are unmistakably London and the choices of colour are unmistakably Autumn. A spectrum of yellow tones everywhere from the sky to the river provide a perfect backdrop for the rusty autumn browns and oranges of the trees, buildings and walkways.