All of a sudden … it’s Autumn, season of mists



22nd September 2016
Well, I suppose everyone is different. Lots of folks just love the summer. For me, though, I have to admit, it's all a bit like one long, hot dusty tunnel from which one emerges at the end of summer - grateful that it's over and full of optimism and energy at last. So here on the threshold of that most Gothic of seasons, the Autumnal Equinox, are some lovely pictures of autumn to share.
painting of four young Victorian women around pile of autumn leaves
Autumn Leaves - John Everett Millais.
The poet Keats described autumn as that 'season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.' Lots of things ripen. Leaves dry up and go all crisp, and can be swept up and burnt in the gardens and parks. This is what John Everett Millais (1829-96) has shown us here in his evocative scene. The 'old' of the leaves contrasts with the 'new' of the young women and girls, who will, we trust, see many autumns and spring-times to come. It reminds us that youth, even when rather solemn as here, is best when clearing away all the old stuff and preparing us for new beginnings.

Millais, that most versatile of painters, also gave us a very different autumnal scene in his landscape 'Chill October.' Instead of people, we have thinning trees, and birds tossed in the wind over a stretch of shallow water.
landscape painting, marshy ground with trees
Chill October - John Everett Millais.

Grimshaw's Autumn

Of all Victorian artists, though, no one quiet does 'autumn' like John Atkinson Grimshaw (1836-93). Even when he paints other times of the year, it still usually comes out all russet and gold and gloomy-mysterious. There is always something brutally honest and 'genuine' about this time of the year, and Grimshaw provides this in abundance. It's like he's saying, 'you know where you are with a good bit of autumn.'
painting of urban landscape in Victorian times, golden colours
Autumn Gold - John Atkinson Grimshaw.
Last autumn I did a post similar to this, with paintings and some quotes from my stories to accompany them. But since then there has been a new novel - The Testament of Sophie Dawes. So here are a few seasonal lines from that one, too: a peep into a journal of a Victorian gentleman.
'Early home. A calm and windless evening, misty and heavy, the air, almost opalescent, and which I observed for a while from the veranda - long strands of smoky air, spiralling and stretching across the Duver in horizontal filaments, some floating off to wander, as if with a life all of their own. The stuff that ‘ghosts’ are made of, no doubt, for those with lively imaginations.

Read until the candles burnt down. Must replenish these tomorrow as the evenings are becoming longer, drawing in fast. With the onset of autumn now, I see the place as it really is, and has been all along, perhaps; as grim and forbidding: unwelcoming without the pretty mask of summer to lie and deceive.'
(Yep - you definitely know where you are with a good bit of autumn)
Authored by Robert Stephen Parry

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