04 November 2009
Autumnal Leaves Falling
Autumnal leaves are falling everywhere. They have hung on in there for quite a while longer as we have had a short spell of decent warm weather and very little wind. But even so, nature cannot be stopped and even the delicate finger-like leaves of our wisteria have turned yellow and will soon have all gone until spring next year.
It's a time of the year that makes you feel artistic. I think perhaps the light is softer, making the edges of objects all fuzzy, rather than the sharp precision of winter and summer. The smells are also old, ancient, the smells of decay; another year over.
I am reminded of a painting by Sir John Everett Millais that hangs in Manchester Art Gallery - "Autumn Leaves". John Ruskin wrote of Autumn Leaves that it was "the first instances of a perfectly painted twilight". I am not sure about the twilight but it does conjur up autumnal smells and sights.
In it, 4 girls stand around a pile of autumnal leaves piled up high – the 2 girls in the centre wearing deep black are Effie’s (Millais’ wife) 2 younger sisters and the others are local youngsters, Matilda Proudfoot and Isabella Nicol. The setting is Annat Lodge in Perthshire, where the distant hills are a deep purple of twilight in the distance.
In the foreground there is a heap of papery fallen leaves, piled high having been brought there by the girls in whicker baskets. Yellowish-green, bronze, red are the leaves, mimicked by the russet and deep purples of the younger 2 local girls as their clothes blend in with the colours of the season. The youngest girl stares wistfully at the leaves and holds a chewed red apple in her hands.
There is a strong emotional intensity as these young girls stare out at us – it is twilight, the end of a year, yet they are just starting out. The earth is perpetual cycle of renewal (spring) through to growth and beauty (summer) and ageing (autumn) before death (winter). Then during winter, the earth is actively replenishing itself ready for another year of growth and death, in a perpetual cycle.
But maybe its more a time for poetry rather the visual arts; maybe poets are the more melancholic of the artists.