Picturing Autumn, an Equinox Celebration

It’s the first day of fall…and the last of these “odes to the season.” It seems fitting to end in Autmun. As with Picturing Winter, Spring, and Summer, I have asked a few of my artist friends to share with us some of their favorite paintings that depict the Fall. It’s a complicated and beautiful season—mixing a desperate need to soak in the last bits of sunlight, an ostentatious display of color, and the warmth of the coming holidays with a sense of loss and decay, foreboding…and magic. The spirits come out in fall and we transition from being outdoor people into an introspective, interior mindset. So, without further ado, below you will find nearly one hundred images of autumn that are joyous, colorful, and dark.

The above by Carlos Schwab.

Click any image to enlarge.

Dave Seeley said, “For me, I immediately think palette when I think of fall… Andrew Wyeth, John Jude Palencar, Odd Nerdrum.” All three are clear artistic cousins. Here is one by Odd Nerdrum.


Arnie Fenner chose this one from Andrew Wyeth. Wyeth was a master at depicting the low-angle sunlight that makes autumn so beautiful.


Todd Lockwood: “I only just came across this painting, and it’s a stunner— Moonrise, by Stanislaw Maslowski.”


Nature with an unnatural light, this Anne Sudworth was chosen by Sam Wolfe Connelly.


An Autumn Morning by Henry Herbert La Thangue, picked by Doug Alexander Gregory. Doug had the good fortune if seeing this at the Tate: “He had several pieces on display of farmers in the countryside. Very flat shapes for the environments. They reminded me of Wyeth at times.”


“I always thought this was one of Keith Parkinson’s greatest images. So sublime and moving for such a tragic scene.” —Donato Giancola


Todd Lockwood’s super scary wood golem.


Richard Anderson… I wish a could spend a trippy day seeing the world shift and shimmer like a Richard Anderson painting.


“I adore this piece by Bao Pham.” —Dan Dos Santos.


Kristina Carroll on Alan Lee’s Rivendell, “I think it’s very difficult for a diehard fantasy geek not to think of Rivendell in the fall. Alan Lee’s cover for The Fellowship of the Ring is such a classic image and personally brings a lot of happy memories. I brought out my copy to flip through and looking at the pages, all roughed up from many, many reads, I think it may be about time to start it all again.”


Lars Grant-West on Paul Emile-Chabas’s September Morning: “I’ve always liked the peaceful solitude, the sense of cool mountain air in this one. Despite her pose, the nudity has always felt completely relaxed and unselfconscious to me. I think I saw it first while I was at SVA…the image has had a fishhook in my brain since then.”


Chris Buzelli says, “One of my favorites, Jonathan Viner!”


Erwin Madrid, an old tree with young company.


Greg Ruth suggested Autumn Tree in the Wind by Egon Schiele. Not what you usually think of when you think of Schiele.


There is a J. C. Leyendecker for every season, and they are all great. Arnie Fenner pointed me to this Thanksgiving icon, secular and religous.


The three Wyeths are keenly aware of the natural envirnoment, and fall is where Jamie really starts to shine. Playful-yet-creepy, he clearly has a blast with the season. This one comes to us via John Jude Palencar.


Autumn on the move! From concept artist John Dickenson.


Just one of a number of amazing Tarzan paintings by Jeff Jones.


If there’s one thing this series of posts has taught me, it’s that Winslow Homer is amazing.


“For autumn I’ve chosen Hailing the Ferry by 19th century American painter Daniel Ridgway Knight. He was a Philadelphia boy who studied alongside Mary Cassat and Thomas Eakins before setting sail for France and finding his muse in the French peasantry.” —Anthony Palumbo


An icon of modern art, Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World. Dave Seeley and Todd Lockwood both count it as a favorite.


Greg Manchess, “Not sure which part of this L. Birge Harrison I like better. The landscape or the woman’s clothing. It’s images like this that remain timeless, even with the costume dating it, because it captures an autumn mood that hits the heart.”


I could have filled this with a thousand fairy paintings… Of course it makes sense that the tradition of fairy artists were keenly aware of the seasons. This one is by John Atkinson Grimshaw, picked by Charley Parker.


Also picked by Charley Parker, Frits Thaulow.


Dean Cornwell and a great use of a limited palette, recommended by Kurt Huggins and Dan Dos Santos.


Kurt also picked this great one by Saturnino Herran.


Concept art for Coraline by Chris Turnham.


Arthur Rackham is all about fall.


Greg Ruth chose this one by Akihiko Yoshida.


From Italian twin artists, Anna and Elena Balbusso.


Scott Bakal picked Something Wicked This Way Comes by David Grove. “When I think of fall, I think of Halloween and the one image that comes to mind almost immediately is David Grove’s painting for Something Wicked This Way Comes. Since I was a young teen, I’ve loved the book, the movie and the art. The painting is perfect in its menacing glow and unease that is, and should be, Halloween. Seeing it a few years ago unexpectedly on the wall in the Society of Illustrators permanent collection stopped me dead in my tracks (no pun intended). I didn’t expect to see it there and it is as incredibly stunning to see in person as it is in print.”


Zelda Devon chose Leon Bakst, costume designer for the Ballett Russes.


Jillian Tamaki’s Red in a very scary wood.


Charles Vess chose Hal Foster, a panel from Prince Valiant.


An Alice in Wonderland by Harry Rountree, also recommended by Charles Vess.


Arnie Fenner picked Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes. (Of course he would, Arnie has a similar Watterson-ish wry humor.)


Steve Rude with a tender moment for Wonder Woman.


The legendary Mary Blair, chosen by Victo Nagi (who shares a love of patterns.)


Here’s one on the delightful side of fall. Inka Essenhigh, chosen by Eric Fortune: “One I don’t look at often enough.”


Kristina Carroll picked out this one by Logan Feliciano, “I stumbled upon this image as I was looking for concept art environments to show one of my classes. I always thought it a great trick of nature that the season right before gray, dead winter is associated with the brightest colors. As if in the act of dying, trees need to burn extra hot  so they can give us enough color to survive until spring. This image captured that idea for me instantly. The tree seems to be on fire, like a phoenix that must die before being reborn—there’s a lot of poetry here.”


Concept art for Coraline by Chris Applehans. The artwork that went into this movie was fantastic.


I just stumpled on Mathew Lyons site a few days ago. I love his close values and squared shapes.


Scott Bakal, “While it is not a painting, it comes as close to a painting as a photograph can. This photo was taken by Marcus Keef and became the cover of Black Sabbath’s first self-titled album. If Something Wicked by David Grove [above] is the first image I think about when it comes to autumn, this photo comes in as a close second.”


Movie concept artist legend Craig Mullins, picked by Zelda Devon.


John Byam Liston Shaw, picked by Charles Vess.


Canada’s great naturalist Tom Thompson.


Basking in golden-hour autumn sunlight, Frantisek Kupka picked by Charles Vess.


“An autumn series wouldn’t be complete without some nod to Halloween. I came across this painting by Eugene Grasset while discovering the Symbolists years ago and decided it was just about the best witch painting I had ever seen. When I looked closer, I decided it was just about the best Wild Hunt painting I’d ever seen. Either way, I loved it. The weaving of the wide-eyed women and wolves among the trees and the supernatural colors really melt together in a deliciously spooky painting.” — Kristina Carroll


Eric Fortune went from delightful to dark in his picks. Here’s Zdzislaw Beksinski.


Sam Weber chose An Autumn War, by Stephan Martiniere. “One of my favorite artists, making one of my favorite covers for one of my favorite books. I actually started reading Daniel Abraham’s Long Price Quartet because of the arresting covers. I ended up discovering one of the best (and dare I say underrated) fantasy series of the past ten years. Autumn War is undoubtedly my favorite, with the most epic cover of the series to match.”


Zelda Devon, a fan of juicy brush strokes, picked this Frank Brangwyn. Brangwyn was the precursor to Dean Cornwell and you can see that clearly here.


Justin Gerarad picked Frederic Leighton’s Cymon and Iphigenia.


Greg Manchess on this piece by Arthur Hacker, “The light, the cat, the title…with a blaze of orange, Fire Fancies reminds me of an old Victorian Hallowe’en, when it was raw and witches were scary.”


Lonesome house, bare tree, fallen leaves…what more do you need for fall? This by Anna and Elena Balbusso.


Victo Ngai picked this fiery/hellish landscape by Zdzislaw Beksinski.


A lovely moment in the woods by Marianne Stokes. I love the details of the arms within the large simple shapes.


Justin Gererad gives us a dignified Minotaur at harvest time.


I can’t decide if this is tender or scary…either way, I love it. John Atkinson Grimshaw.


Beautiful and unsettling, by Lucien Levy-Dhurmer.


High society in the autumn, by James Tissot.


Autumn Leaves by John Millais, chosen by Greg Ruth.


A beautiful solemn moment by Mary Cassatt, chosen by Greg Ruth.


Greg Ruth on Arcimboldo, “No better autumn than fruit-head master himself.”


George Inness, chosen by Kurt Huggins, Greg Ruth, Charley Parker, and about a dozen other people.


Greg Manchess, a huge nut for fall himself, “Another Victorian era painting of a walk in the woods that wouldn’t have caught my eye but for the time of year. Sometimes, a gateway piece can open an observer to an artist’s wealth of images.”


Lars Grant-West’s Autumn Dragon.


John Jude Palencar, chosen by Dave Seeley.


 L. A. Ring, The Old Woman and Death, picked by Greg Manchess. “One of those paintings that’s creepy-sad, but you can’t look away,  because we all get there.”


A quintessential autumn painting, Pieter Bruegel’s The Harvesters. John Jude Palencar shared this one with us.


Greg Ruth, a master of black and white himself, chose this Edward Ryden print.


Leo and Diane Dillon at harvest.


It’s always Halloween-land in Alfred Kubin’s pictures… a very dark, scary, claustrophic Halloween-land.


Jamie Wyeth really seems to shine in the fall.


Jamie Wyeth’s Raven leads to Vincent Van Gogh’s crows.


Victo Ngai recommended Huang Yong Yu.


Ivan Bilibin, picked by Charles Vess.


Another from Tom Thomson. It’s nearly impossible to pick a favorite among his Canadian landscapes.


Charles Vess’s The Corn King. (And truly, the end of the corn is the end of summer in my house.) Chosen by Greg Ruth.


Stunning piece by Frank Cadogan Cowper, picked by Zelda Devon.


Zelda Devon also picked this one by Yoshitaka Amano.


Jon Foster in an Arthur Rackham mood.


Edmund Dulac, picked by Zelda Devon. Really, I could have put a dozen Dulacs in here.


Raymond Swanland picked Calling the Eagle from Susan Seddon Boulet. “I first came across Susan Seddon-Boulet’s work in my early teens and found her ethereal style and shamanic content to be enchanting and mind-expanding. Yet, that was right around the same age I was learning more about the real tragic history of Native Americans, which the school books didn’t quite talk about so much. The vibrant, yet earthy, tones in the art mixed with my understanding of a fading culture somehow always gave me that feeling of autumn.”


Arnie Fener chose Frank Frazetta’s cover for Ray Bradbury’s The Autumn People.


Coles Phillips and one of his famous “fade-away” girls.


Alfred Bestall, picked by Charles Vess.


Cory Godbey, one of field’s newest illustrators quasi-following in the tradition of the great fairy painters.


Greg Manchess’ Halloween parade, supernatural or not: Something Wicked This Way Comes.


A playfull Jamie Wyeth, picked by Arnie Fenner.


Jaime Jones’ takes on the classic War of the Worlds.


Looking over Pascal Campion, it is clear that he is very influenced by the seasons and the light each season brings. Here is just one example of a really sweet fall moment, a father and son taking quiet advantage of the last bit of warmth in the year.


Greg Ruth, from his children’s book Red Kite, Blue Kite.


Arthur Meltzer, picked by Charley Parker. So solidly fall.


And to end on a personal favorite, Andrew Wyeth’s Witching Hour.

Irene Gallo is the Art Director of Tor Books.


Subscribe to this thread