Autumn Leaves are Beautifully Represented in 19th Century Art
October 9, 2018 Jessica 0 Comments
Few things are as lovely as autumn leaves, whether fallen or at home on a tree branch. They speak to us that transition can be beautiful and that change is nothing to fear.
The sight of colorful fall leaves evokes cozy feelings, and throughout the centuries artists have tried to recreate nature’s autumnal scenes. 19th Century English artist John Everett Millais success with this is evident in his famed painting ‘Autumn Leaves’.
‘Autumn Leaves’ by John Everett Millais Sings of Fall’s Glories
Lovers of fall time will adore Millais’ masterpiece ‘Autumn Leaves’. Painted in 1856, it was exhibited at the Royal Academy in London and is composed of warm hues traditionally associated with fall. The oil-on-canvas painting, now housed at the Manchester City Art Gallery, depicts four young ladies raking together a pile of fallen leaves in the twilight. It is all at once warming, transporting, and mysterious.
“‘Autumn Leaves’ was described by the critic John Ruskin as ‘the first instance of a perfectly painted twilight.’ Millais’ wife Effie wrote that he had intended to create a picture that was ‘full of beauty and without a subject.’” — Wikipedia
Millais’ Painting Bids Us Build a Bonfire
“Build a bonfire” is an activity that makes it onto many fall bucket lists. A contributor to Wikipedia stated that the girls depicted in ‘Autumn Leaves’ “are making a bonfire, but the fire itself is invisible, only smoke emerging from between the leaves. The two girls on the left, modelled on Millais’ sisters-in-law Alice and Sophy Gray, are portrayed in middle-class clothing of the era; the two on the right are in rougher, working class clothing.”
Just looking at the piece of art evokes memories and imaginings of fall pastimes.
“The painting has been seen as one of the earliest influences on the development of the aesthetic movement.” — Autumn Leaves (Painting)
‘Autumn Leaves’ Speaks of the Transience of Youth
The transience of beauty and youth is a typical themes in Millais’ artwork. Art historian Malcom Warner believes that Millais’ painting was inspired by the song “Tears, Idle Tears” by Tennyson:
“Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean.
Tears from the depth of some divine despair
Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes,
In looking on the happy Autumn-fields,
And thinking on the days that are no more.”
In Millais’ painting, the youngest girl holds an apple, but this was likely intended to have a far deeper meaning than what it appears to have. Millais may have been referencing the loss of innocence of humankind’s original sin and the removal from the Garden of Eden.
Of the painting, Millais wrote, “I intended the picture to awaken by its solemnity the deepest religious reflection. I chose the subject of burning leaves as most calculated to produce this feeling.”
What is Your Favorite Piece of Autumn-Themed Art?
While ‘Autumn Leaves’ is a deeply meaningful and emotionally heavy work of art, it also comforts the hearts of those who love fall. Is fall your favorite season? If so, are there any autumn-themed works of art that you favor? Share your thoughts with us in the section below.
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