Saturday, 29 September 2012

Ripeness to the Core

Good evening, dearest readers.  I have had a particularly Autumnal day, blessed with a long walk and sloe and rosehip picking.  Tomorrow I shall purchase enough gin to ruin all the women in Whitechapel, and plunge those little black berries into the crystal liquid, then wait for Christmas.  As for the rosehips, I shall boil them into syrup and evade the dreaded cough and consumption for another season.  Or that's the plan.  Anyhow, here is my personal tribute to this marvellous, russet-stained season, filled with enough mist and mellow-fruitfulness to keep anyone happy.

An English Autumn Afternoon (1854) Ford Madox Brown
Well, I was either going to start with this or Autumn Leaves by Millais.  One of the things I love about Autumn is that it is often sunny enough to lounge about on a rug of an afternoon, but I do not feel the pressure to remove any layers of clothing.  What jolly fine quality of sunshine is on show here, with the sun low enough in the sky to cast a long shadow over the couple as they view the changing trees.

An Autumn Morning, Ancarnan (1883) Edward Trevor
Before we end up on a blanket with a likely-type in a hat, I think we have a moment to relax on a pale beach gazing out at a still ocean, mirror-fresh with its cool blue.  Again, it looks unnecessary for me to even consider the horror of any swimsuit (even though I've always fancied one of those Victorian numbers to emerge from my bathing machine in) or even the need to remove my coat.  I often go to the beach in the Autumn, I much prefer it and this year's pilgrimage to the Isle of Wight will occur in late October, all huddled in a soft scarf and velvet coat.

An Autumn Morning Henry Herbert La Thangue
I was surprised by the amount of art available under the tag of 'Autumn' as painters seem to love not only literal images of people in the autumn but also mood pieces and symbolic wonders.  It's hard to see how literal this one is, although she looks quite meaningful in her dedication to gathering firewood.  There is determination on her face, and a little resignation, as she knows her job from here on in will only get harder as the season slips into Winter.

Autumn (1904) Edward Atkinson Hornel
Again, at first glance this seems a straight forward image of the artist's daughters posing in the Autumnal sunshine on a riverbank, but see how the girls white smocks are reflected in the plumage of the swans, as if the artist is aware that his little girls will grow into women soon and this is the autumn of his role of protector, the sole authority to these children.  Bring on the metaphor!

Autumn (1860) Frederick Sandys
I've never really had a handle on this picture, is the old soldier Autumn?  What of the other figures, are they his daughter and granddaughter, or wife and child?  I'm not judging if it is his wife and child, I've always had a weakness for older chaps.  What is the significance of him being a soldier?  The red of his jacket contrasts with the green of his lady companion's dress.  What of the things in the foreground?  Oh heavens, this is far too complex for a Saturday night, especially after I've opened a bottle of wine.  Let's just say that the older man is the dignity of Autumn, the figure which still has the trappings of the earlier time (Summer, the military jacket) but is losing them (the leaves will fall, the jacket is unbuttoned) and my wine is delicious.

Autumn Flowers (1873) Carl Gussow
This is an interesting image, because for a moment I was confused.  The flower seems fresh and young, why would it be autumn?  Oh, I see, it's not the flower but the people who are autumnal.  I wondered if the black ribbon securing the hat of the lady denoted her state as a widow, and possibly the dark clothes of the man denoted his similar state.  The couple are embarking on a romance in the autumn of their lives, yet both seem delighted and involved in their love.  Good luck to them.

Autumnal Sorrows (1878) Frank O'Meara
Oh dear.  The problem with autumn is that it does rather seem to be the season of regret, the time to look back and sigh 'My word, that went badly, I made a total fool of myself, didn't I?' while I friend looks on stoically and secretly thinks that you did indeed make an utter fool of yourself, and now you're sat on a stone bench and will probably end up with piles.  Or possibly someone has died.  Not sure why that is linked with autumn?  I wonder what the remarriage rate was?  If you were a young widow, especially with money I guess your chances were good, but a woman of say around 40 (she says, taking a hearty swig of wine), past her prime (another swig of wine), you know you'll end up with a mop cap and a cold behind.

Autumn Frederick Walker
It's alright, I'm feeling better now, possibly due to the wine.  This is a very thoughtful young woman, with a meaningful apple, awaiting either her Adam or snake.  I get the impression she might have a bit of a wait, because that orchard looks particularly empty...

Autumn (1898) William Stott
It's only one step on from hanging around in an orchard from going completely mad and lounging around in a corn store with a load of apples, pretending you're Ceres.  At that point someone needs to perform some sort of intervention and get some shoes on you.  It's rather a lovely look though, I could quite happily hang around in a corn cave, artistically swathed in my own hair, but that might be the wine talking...

Autumn Leaves J E Millais
So my friends, go out and scuff your feet through the leaves and gather fruit ready for the approaching Winter.  I find fruit keeps much better if stored in gin.  Notice I say 'better' not 'longer'....


  1. Autumn is the best season, especially in my part of the world where summers are beyond hot. Scorching is a better word, or withering. The only time of the year when I don't long for autumn is autumn.

    I think I may have to see if you're right about fruit keeping "better" in gin. For science's sake, mind you.

  2. I adore Spring because it means I can get so much done in the garden, all full of hope. Autumn gives me the pleasure of planning for Christmas and settling everything down, safely stowed away, and I have an excuse for wrapping myself up on the sofa with only my laptop and a hot water bottle for company.

    When I see you next year we shall carry out thorough and scientific tests, I promise....

  3. That's true. Spring is exciting because there are so many possibilities for the garden.

    Yes yes, they must be very thorough tests. This is one area where we must not be negligent in any respect.

  4. I love your site Kirsty, a true feast for the eyes. Of course here in Australia we are now enjoying spring. However, I moved from Sydney to the Blue mountains to enjoy 'proper' autumns and along with Australian natives my garden has lots of maples that colour brilliantly.

  5. I prefer to keep my sloes in vodka, and throw in a handful of raspeberries for colour!

  6. Thanks for your comments, I'm easy to whatever alcohol is used as long as those fruits are preserved...

  7. Great post as usual. You are so witty!

  8. Thank you Angela, I hope Autumn is treating you well :)

  9. Just thought I should mention that the girls in 'Autumn' by Edward Atkinson Hornel aren't his daughters. He was a lifelong bachelor who lived with his sister Tizzy in Kirkcudbright and never had any children.

  10. Thank you Jim, it is a lovely image and it's nice to know a bit more about the artist!

  11. The commentary to 'Autumnal' Sorrows and William Stott's 'Autumn' had me actually laughing on the couch!!

  12. I'm pleased to have cheered your Autumn for you :)


Many thanks for your comment. I shall post it up shortly! Kx