Paintbox Leaves: Autumnal Inspiration from Cole to Wyeth

September 25, 2010 - January 16, 2011


There is one season when the American forest surpasses all the world in gorgeousness -- that is the autumnal every hue is there...from the most golden yellow to the intensest crimson....

In 1835, Hudson River School painter Thomas Cole penned these words in his Essay on American Scenery, and for the past 175 years, Americans have continued to extol and paint the attractions of their fall season. Paintbox Leaves explores this cultural phenomenon beginning with Cole's vivid scenes and continuing as a narrative to today in paintings ranging from landscape panoramas to detailed leaf studies. Cole bemoaned one recurring artistic dilemma: the more painters highlighted colorful trees as a distinctly American terrain, the more likely they would learn that, " the old world his truest imitations of the American forest, at this season, are called falsely bright, and scenes in Fairy Land."
At its heart, Paintbox Leaves is a meditation on how we and 81 artists have mingled appreciation of fall's luscious beauty with visceral connections to its seasonal symbolism. Mid-nineteenth-century artists contributed to an autumnal mythology of colorful foliage and bountiful harvests and the emotional responses it roused. In 1859, Henry David Thoreau gave impassioned voice to these painted and poetic sentiments in his lecture "Autumnal Tints," which forecast the contemporary devotion to "leaf-peeping,"

October is the month of painted leaves. Their rich glow now flashes round the world.

Thomas Cole (1801-1848)
The Clove, Catskills, c. 1827
Oil on canvas
Collection of New Britain Museum of American Art, Charles F. Smith Fund
As a native-born Englishman, Cole had an outsider's view of the American landscape that tended to sharpen his reactions to the colors and terrain of his adopted country. The Kaaterskill Clove contains some of the most stunning scenery in the Catskills and became a popular tourist destination beginning in the 1820s. Cole depicts a single Native American (now obscured) to evoke the timelessness of a primitive and sublime land, less touched by the hand of man than was actually true at the time. He highlights the fall colors by dividing the composition into two sections. On the left brilliant foliage indicates the height of the autumnal season, the bushes aflame with red and orange, while the darker green pines dominate the right half of the picture in shadow.

(N.C.) Newell Convers Wyeth (1882-1945)
Chadd's Ford Hills, 1927
Oil on canvas
Collection of Ron and Cheryl Howard
N.C. Wyeth captures the magnificent topography and foliage of the Brandywine Valley, with which he and his artistic family are so strongly associated. Using figures for scale and empathy, much as did the Hudson River School painters, he lets the fall beauty dwarf his horsemen.
In the early 20th century, N.C. Wyeth represented the link between popular and fine art, but he wanted to move beyond book illustration to be recognized for his landscapes. He painted in pure Impressionist hues, but often added dramatic contrasts of light and dark and stressed solidity and compositional design, such as these stylized nestled trees -- dense balls of orange paint.
Thomas) Worthington Whittredge (1820-1910)
Portrait of an Artist with an Easel, 1861
Oil on panel
Private Collection, courtesy of Godel & Co. Fine Art, New York
In the mid-19th century, most artists planned sketching trips as a group activity, for economy, safety, and camaraderie. Whittredge was in the Catskills with Sanford Gifford and Jervis McEntee when he painted this small panel. The subject is presumed to be the artist Jervis McEntee, who is painting a closeup view of dense red trees. Whittredge and Jasper Cropsey both depicted artists painting, but Cropsey's figure is part of a broad panorama, while Whittredge's painter is the central element of a focused view. The compositional space gives a tangible sense of being down in the trees, and we understand both Whittredge and his depicted artist are creating a very different sort of experience.
Jasper Francis Cropsey (1823-1900)
Artist Painting the Hudson, 1872
Oil on canvas
Collection of the Newington-Cropsey Foundation
In American art, Cropsey's devotion to the autumn palette is as legendary as the fall scenery along the Hudson River. He visited Lake George and other artist haunts, but always returned to the Hudson. Here, while his artist is painting, the woman admires the actual early autumn view rather than his creative handiwork. It is a small ironic commentary by Cropsey on the relative value of art and nature.
Although English guidebooks specifically recommended the Hudson Valley foliage to foreign tourists, when Cropsey and Thomas Cole displayed their paintings in London, English critics doubted the veracity of their vivid coloration. Likewise, Henry David Thoreau noted, "There is no account of such a phenomenon in English poetry, because the trees acquire but few bright colors there."

Winslow Homer (1836-1910)
In Autumn Woods, c. 1877
Watercolor on paper
Courtesy of Godel & Co., Inc., New York
Artists were not the only people in search of leafy paths and clearings. Nature tourism, born of elite cultural sensibilities, became more democratized after the Civil War with the growth of transportation networks, a leisured middle class and guidebooks. Homer frequently depicted seasonal outdoor subjects of idealized women at work and at play in his early watercolors. Real or imaginary, this young lady with leaves blowing onto her clothing could be paused at any number of sites from the Catskills to the White Mountains, already tourist destinations, or simply out collecting leaves in suburban woods close to home. Homer used a similar Japanese-influenced diagonal pattern of steep hill and leaning tree, in two related oil paintings of figures surrounded by autumn trees and leaves.

George Frank Higgins (active 1859-1891)
Four Seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, 1868
Oil on board
Courtesy of Godel & Co., Inc., New York
Autumn painting had roots in the ancient tradition of illustrating all four seasons, with overarching analogies to the phases of human life. Higgins and many other American artists painted a series of the seasons. Jasper Cropsey produced several sets. Higgins includes tiny figures, such as farm workers and ice skaters, in addition to indicating the times of year with fall foliage, flowering trees, snow, and other landscape signs. Genre figures were a major element of European seasonal art. This autumn scene shows fishermen, a frequent inclusion in American fall scenes.

Jasper Francis Cropsey (1823-1900)
View at Hastings-on-Hudson, c. 1891
Oil on canvas
Lent by Hastings High School, Union Free School District No. 4
Cropsey moved to Hastings-on-Hudson in 1885 and, though the Hudson River School was out of vogue, he religiously painted the river's unfolding seasons from his studio window. The Palisades, seen in the background, are directly across the Hudson from his house, and they provided him with constant visual inspiration.
Late works like this demonstrate Cropsey's continuing power and skill at capturing the Hudson Valley's scenic beauty. Depicting a location just a few miles north of the present Hudson River Museum, he used autumnal trees as a colorful framing device for a bucolic composition similar to his early masterpiece Autumn on the Hudson, which had incited much debate about American art and autumnal colors when it was displayed in London in 1860.

Stephen Hannock (b. 1951)
Final Study: The Oxbow, after Church, after Cole, Flooded,
1979-1994 (Flooded River for the Matriarchs, E. & A. Mongan), 1994
Polished oil on canvas
Collection of the artist, courtesy McKenzie Fine Art, New York
The influence of the Hudson River School continues to loom large in contemporary autumnal landscape painting in a variety of guises. Hannock has long been inspired by Thomas Cole and Frederic Church, as well as the Luminist artists. He spent more than fifteen years studying the famous Oxbow (a bend in the Connecticut River) that inspired works by both Cole and Church. Here, he poetically combines seasons, depicting the spring flooding of the river with an autumnal palette inspired by the work of Jasper Cropsey. Hannock brings out the luminescence of the landscape by polishing the oil on the canvas with sandpaper. He does not document an actual fall scene, but rather creates a meditation on tonality and light.
Sanford Gifford (1823-1880)
An October Afternoon, Kauterskill Falls, 1868
Oil on canvas
Collection of Kristian Davies
Gifford was one of the Hudson River School artists who gradually toned down his color palette and adopted elements of Luminism. As a critic for the New York Times once noted about another of his paintings, "this is as full of feeling for the beauty of the American Autumn expressed, not as Mr. Cropsey likes to give it, in the too glaring red of our October forests, but in the deeper tones of grass-lands in November and December."
While the Hudson River landscape emphasized the sublime, Luminist landscapes featured calmer, more contemplative terrains with glistening water and pure, gleaming light. In the clear, amber glow of the low-lying sun over these famous falls, the viewer finds the calm and serene side of autumn.

Kysa Johnson (b. 1974)
blow up 97- the molecular structure of environmental pollutants ethane, methane, propane, hexane, benzene, and acrolein after McEntee's Autumn Landscape, 2008
Watercolor, graphite on panel
Private Collection
Johnson is inspired by the work of Hudson River School painter Jervis McEntee, who often interpreted the "bleak" period of autumn, with more restrained use of color than Cole and Cropsey. She incorporates her own 21st-century bleakness by building the landscape composition with the globular shapes and patterns of chemical compounds currently polluting the Hudson Valley. Nevertheless, she describes autumn as her favorite season, in which "the moody grey skies signal when everything begins again," and reflects that this is the time of year when one becomes wistful for one's school days, which represent a fresh beginning in the academic world just as the natural cycle is drawing to a close.

Jervis McEntee (1828-1891)
An Adirondack Lake, c. 1860
Oil on board
Collection of Hawthorne Fine Art, New York
McEntee exhibited at the National Academy for thirty years between 1861 and 1890, but in only six of those years did he show works that did not have a title with an autumn theme. Works such as Where Late the Wild Flower Bloomed, the Brown Leaf Lies, quoted from William C. Bryant, exemplify the artist's view of the season. An Adirondack Lake was completed before the post-Civil War trend away from brightness in color and mood. One positive review of his later painting, noted "frost has touched all the leaves and dulled the thousand hues of October into one monotonous brown."

Jasper Francis Cropsey (1823-1900)
Catskill Mountain House, 1855
Oil on canvas
Collection of Newington-Cropsey Foundation
A golden autumnal calm suffuses Cropsey's mountain vista, with the popular hotel barely glimpsed across the valley. The Mountain House was built in Pine Orchard, in 1824 and was promoted on its healthful fresh air and "improving" quality. Though Thomas Cole and Sanford Gifford also painted the Mountain House, most artists sought less expensive accommodations, such as boarding houses.
Cropsey depicts the transition from late summer to early autumn, when there is still a good deal of green in the foliage. This view would have reflected the experience of many of the guests, for at the time few tourists traveled after mid-September, when the hotel usually ended its season.

James Fairman (1826-1904)
Autumn Landscape: Mts. Madison and Jefferson, Androscoggin River, near Gorham,
New Hampshire 1867
Oil on canvas
Collection of the Hudson River Museum, Purchase, 1975
The White Mountains were an early destination for artists. At least three guidebooks had been published by the time Fairman visited. The Scottish native served in the Civil War, then became known as one of the most skilled technicians of the autumn landscape, especially for the richness of his colors. With its single central peak extending above the tree line, surrounded by luxurious skirting of color in the lower topography, his panoramic view recalls the format of Cole's Hoosac Mountain; but Fairman's soothing landscapes reflect a calming stillness and golden light that signaled the shift towards Luminism. The metaphorical stormy skies and windswept hills of Thomas Cole's landscapes had no place in the healing post-War rehabilitation.

James Hope (1818-1892)
Green Mountains, Vermont, 1866
Oil on canvas
Collection of Kristian Davies
Nothing can surpass the splendor of this autumnal pageantry, as beheld in the Green Mountains of Vermont and Western Massachusetts, in the early part of October. This region abounds in Sugar-Maples, which are very beautifully tinted...
The Atlantic Monthly, 1861
In the mid-19th century, the Green Mountains of Vermont were one of the main destinations for artists venturing beyond the Hudson Valley. Most of the painters spent their winters in urban art centers but Scottish immigrant James Hope had married a woman from West Rutland, Vermont and lived in Castleton, in central part of the state. He would not have far to travel for this early fall scene that captures a tiny figure fishing in the distance.
Thomas Moran (1837-1926)
The Woods in Autumn, 1864
Oil on canvas
Collection of The Heckscher Museum of Art, Huntington, NY, August Heckscher Collection, 1959.134
Moran is best known for his scenes of the Yellowstone Territory, the Western Indians, and America's many grand national parks, painted as part of the so-called "Rocky Mountain School." An intimately quiet picture, The Woods in Autumn, was painted shortly after Moran returned from studying art in England, where he absorbed the influences of Turner's landscapes. Moran makes an unusual choice of composition by placing an evergreen pine at its center and surrounding it with "leaf" trees.

Charles Edward Dubois (1847-1885)
Palisades, Hudson River, 1875-1876
Oil on canvas
Private collection
DuBois chooses a sheer and stark vision on the Hudson's west bank, from the very base of the Palisades, looking up at the cliffs. His view cleverly contrasts the richness of the ephemeral autumn foliage with the steep ancient wall of rock. Although extremely picturesque, the scene contains both steam and sailboats -- a contrast between the contemporary and historic. The beached sailboat and smoke from a campfire invoke a cool fall day and a nod to the pioneering spirit. The Palisades soar to an immense height, hugged by a tiny fringe of pine trees at the top of their cliffs. The changing scale between the boat, the leaves, and the massive rocks creates a sense of monumentality that is also an oasis of calm.

George Herbert McCord (1848-1909)
Hudson River View, c. 1870
Oil on board
Collection of the Hudson River Museum, Gift of Mrs. Grace Varian Stengel, 43.62
McCord spent was still living on Ashburton Avenue in Yonkers with his parents in 1870, when he probably painted this view of the Palisades that line the west bank of the Hudson River. He had gazed across the Hudson at the spectacular rock face for years and probably knew its profile by heart. McCord must have set up his easel in the rural north part of town and from this low viewpoint, the orange foliage seems to rise above the cliffs. In the distance, his autumn colors mark the point where the Palisades turn into rolling hills.

Samuel Colman (1832-1920)
Near Cro's Nest on the Hudson, New York, n.d.
Oil on academy board
Collection of Questroyal Fine Art, LLC
The rocky hills of the Hudson Highlands, like the Palisades to the south, seem to offer little soil for deciduous trees and shrubs, but both do present unique fall color with the season's hot orange contrasting with the cold grey granite. The adventurous Colman's artistic travels ranged from the American West abroad to Morocco, but he lived in Irvington-on-Hudson in Westchester County in the 1860s and returned to the subject of the Hudson River throughout his career. Most of Crow's Nest Mountain, seen here, is within the northern boundaries of West Point.

Regis Francois Gignoux (1816-1882)
First Snow Along the Hudson River, 1859
Oil on canvas
Collection of Hawthorne Fine Art, New York
Many poets and artists, from William Cullen Bryant to Charles Burchfield, have focused their attention to the turning points of seasons. Gignoux used his noted skill to depict snow that highlights autumn on the brink of change. In his Book of the Artists (1867), Henry Tuckerman described a similar painting as one of Gignoux's most celebrated achievements. He added that the artist had moved from his popular winter landscapes to fall subjects, for which there was growing demand.

Ernest Lawson (1873-1939)
Mountaintop Jewels, n.d.
Oil on canvas
Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Davies
As a student at Cos Cob Art Colony, Lawson discovered a love of landscape, which he never abandoned despite affiliation with New York Social Realists and a role in organizing the 1913 Armory Show. He painted the Hudson and Harlem Rivers in all seasons, including late fall and winter, and traveled to the town of Cornish and other areas to find mountainous views like the one here. Lawson applied colors thickly and vigorously, painting foliage that looks like a volcano of jewels, a lava of leaves about to flow down the mountainside. In a memorial published by the National Arts Club, painter Edmund Greacen praised his "rugged sincerity," adding "his peculiar style of impressionism, with its fused colors, gave a quality of crushed jewels to his painting..."

George Bellows (1882-1925)
Hills of September, 1912
Oil on panel
Collection of S. Peck, Larchmont, NY
Bellows found the rural landscape invigorating. Best known for urban scenes, he painted his atypical vista while living in Woodstock, a locale with vibrant foliage, Bellows first experienced autumn in the Catskill Region in 1912, where he stayed in Onteora Park, a few miles north of Woodstock. The paintings he produced there, like this, were small in scale, but Bellows considered them an artistic breakthrough. He chose a similar one from this series for the 1913 avant-garde Armory Show. In 1920, he moved to Woodstock and, according to Life (1946), built his own house by hand in 1922.
Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902)
Autumn Landscape, n.d.
Oil on canvas
Collection of the Heckscher Museum of Art, Huntington, NY, Museum Purchase, 1987.10
Like Cole and Cropsey, Bierstadt may also have been criticized abroad, in his case Paris, for gaudy fall colors. The late Hudson River School painter was best known for his dramatic paintings of the so-called "Rocky Mountain School." In the mid-19th century, landscape painters increasingly moved beyond the terrain and distinctive autumn leaves of the Northeast to explore the far-reaching vistas west of the Mississippi. In this small work, Bierstadt paints a more tranquil setting that is at decided variance with the dramatic mountainous terrain and overt theatricality for which he is remembered, but he intensifies the color of his painting by contrasting the bright foliage in the center of the composition with the dark green pines of the forest.

Frank Swift Chase (1888-1958)
Woodland Valley Overlooking Woodstock, n.d.
Oil on canvas
Collection of Erik Davies
Chase's golden Woodland Valley, is filled with his "joy in color and paint," which is not that stylistically different from fellow Woodstock visitor George Bellows, whose Hills of September is far removed from the edginess of his urban works. The relaxation of a resort community may have softened stylistic innovation, but the quality of the work both Bellows and Chase produced is of a high order. Woodstock held a continuing appeal for Chase, who was there at the time of his death.
Wolf Kahn (b. 1927)
On the Bank of the Gihon River, 2005
Oil on canvas
Courtesy of the artist and Ameringer McEnery Yohe, A/Y#11810
Painting in Vermont for over 40 years, Kahn may inherit Jasper Cropsey's title "America's painter of autumn." Kahn has written:
Bright orange resists being used in a subtle way, is never reticent, or decorous, or delicate. It seems made to order to represent intensity, exuberance, and heightened feelings.... There remains the question of whento employ this useful color without leaving oneself open to accusations of hedonism.... The answer is: in fall.... Then no one can quarrel with one's use of orange, since it is sanctioned by actual occurrence in nature...
George Inness (1825-1894)
Indian Summer, 1894
Oil on canvas
Collection of Fayez Sarofim Collection
As the title, suggests, Inness shows two moments, the brilliance of an unusually warm autumn day and the drabness of the November weather to come. He painted Indian Summer in the last year of his life, and its mood and details recall the transience of life and the nostalgia that is omnipresent during the fall season. The mistiness of his birch tree's orange foliage suggests its ephemeral nature and recalls Henry David Thoreau's words,
It is pleasant to walk over the beds of these fresh, crisp, and rustling leaves. How beautifully they go to their graves! -- painted of a thousand hues So they troop to their last resting-place, light and frisky... scampering over the earth.... before they rest quietly in their graves!.... They teach us how to die.

Bill Sullivan (b. 1942)
View from Olana with Foliage, 2005
Oil on canvas
Collection of Columbia Memorial Hospital
Living in the heart of the Hudson Valley, Sullivan draws its inspiration for his vision of autumn from the intense coloration in the paintings of Hudson River School painter Frederic Church. For over a century, the stunning vistas from Church's home Olana, near Hudson, have inspired countless artists. Sullivan, known for his brilliant landscapes in high keys, shows the river valley leaves ablaze against a Technicolor pink, purple, and orange sky that reflects onto the river's mirror-like surface. Each of Sullivan's trees is part of a unified color scheme that creates a veritable rainbow. These hues are amped up from "real life," although as his 19th-century artistic predecessors did before him, Sullivan might insist that each of these colors can actually be found in autumn's foliage.

Levi Wells Prentice (1851-1935)
Near Saranac Lake, Adirondacks, 1874
Oil on canvas
Courtesy of Godel & Co., Inc., New York
Prentice was raised on a farm in the Adirondacks, where he painted the mountain scenery in a Hudson River School style tinged with the precisionist impulses of some folk art and a fondness for smooth lake surfaces akin to the Luminists. This graphic emphasis on detail, combined with mirrored expanses of water, gives his landscapes a surreal aura, as if we are privy to more than could be seen with the naked eye. Here, he shows sensitivity to the life cycles of the region in his choice of view-an inlet of burnt trees surrounded by colorful new growth.
A large summer scene by Prentice, featuring fallen trees and a luminous turquoise pool, is hanging in Glenview's Great Hall.
George Kelly (1909-1998)
Fall, West Point, 1981
Oil on canvas
Collection of the Hudson River Museum, Gift of Deborah E. Kelly, 99.1.4
The magical combination of depicting spectacular vistas and connecting them to events of the Revolutionary War made West Point and the Hudson Highlands some of the most widely depicted scenery in the 19th century. As Kelly shows us a century later, nothing dramatizes fall foliage like a sunset over a river on a clear day.
This Croton-on-Hudson artist specialized in Hudson River scenes for the last twenty years of his life. He used vivid color and color relationships to build form and banished the color black, as well as outlines, from his work.
Reynolds Beal (1866-1951)
Woodstock, New York, 1918
Watercolor on paper
Collection of the Hudson River Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Bressler, 2000.15
The success of Beal's father in a Newburgh utilities business gave the artist and his brother Gifford freedom to pursue painting and yachting. Both studied with Chase at Shinnecock, Long Island, where Reynolds befriended Childe Hassam. In the early 20th century, Woodstock, just north of Newburgh, became another vital center of artistic activity, including summer painting classes offered by the Art Students League. Beal captured the onset of fall in this watercolor painted the year before the founding of the Woodstock Artists Association.

Gifford Beal (1879-1956)
Autumn on the Hudson, 1940
Oil on wood
Collection of the Hudson River Museum, Gift of Gifford Beal and William Beal, 95.4.1
Beal studied with William Merritt Chase and Frank Dumond but by 1940 he mixed their Impressionism with Modernistic sensibilities. Beal captures the intensity of the Hudson River's most beautiful season with broadly brushed paint and contrasts warm and cool colors, curved and straight lines. He and his bother, Reynolds, spent their childhood in the town of Newburgh, close to the river. Later Gifford recalled the time and setting as idyllic and, although known for a wide variety of subjects, returned often to his beloved Hudson.

Jasper Francis Cropsey (1823-1900)
The Narrows at Lake George, 1888
Oil on canvas
Collection of the Hudson River Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Frank E. Wheeler, 24.29
Cropsey's painting of Lake George was probably based on sketches he made at Lake George over 40 years earlier. The scene is idealized as well as nostalgic. In his September 12, 1845 journal entry, he bemoaned the vanishing trees, "All of the best trees... have been turned into timberall the forest about are second growth now and then an old tree remaining." He commented that there were better elms, maples and chestnuts to be seen along the Housatonic River in Connecticut.

J. Winthrop Andrews (1879-?)
Autumn Landscape, n.d.
Oil on paperboard
Collection of the Hudson River Museum, Gift of Miss Margaret Hubbard, 44.163 c
Andrews, art director for the Yonkers Public Schools, was on the executive committee of the Yonkers Art Association for decades, beginning with its first annual exhibition in 1916. He made painting trips to the Adirondacks and several New England coastal areas popular with artists but the rolling hills and stone wall in this painting may be somewhere in Westchester County. It is tempting to think this small study could be his Autumnal Ash, featured in the Yonkers Art Association annual exhibit in 1934.
Hart's flame of a tree, fluttering by its own volition in the center of an otherwise still Luminist scene, recalls a passage by Henry David Thoreau.
Some single trees, wholly bright scarlet, seen against others of their kind still freshly green, or against evergreens, are more memorable than whole groves.... What more remarkable object can there be in the landscape? Visible for miles, too fair to be believed. If such a phenomenon occurred but once, it would be handed down by tradition to posterity, and get into the mythology at last.
James Renwick Brevoort (1832-1918)
October on Lake Dunmore, Vermont, 1895
Watercolor on paper
Collection of the Hudson River Museum, Gift of Mrs. Ralph E. Prime, Jr. 44.56 A
Like his friend Samuel Colman, Brevoort was an enthusiastic watercolorist. He painted and drew tirelessly in Westchester County as well as on his travels to scenic destinations, including Vermont and the Italian countryside. Despite the development of portable oil paints, watercolor only increased in popularity in the second half of the 19th century. Brevoort used its luminous properties to great advantage for his many seasonal paintings.

Aaron Draper Shattuck (1832-1928)
Autumn Colors at the Falls, c. 1870
Oil on canvas laid down on board
Courtesy of the Cooley Gallery, Old Lyme, Connecticut
Shattuck was from a small town in Vermont, so it is not surprising that he spent several summers in the 1850s sketching in the White Mountains with Sanford Gifford and Samuel Colman. Shattuck probably painted this view around the time he married Colman's sister and moved to a farm in Granby, Connecticut. Most of his later paintings record the pastoral surroundings there. The brushstroke he uses in the painting for foliage has the light agile touch of an oil sketch and the sheen on the water is a hallmark of the Luminists.

John Frederick Kensett (1816-1872)
Woodland Waterfall, c. 1855
Oil on board on canvas
Private Collection, New York, Courtesy of Babcock Galleries
In 1857, Kensett showed a series of seasonal paintings at an exhibition organized by painter Albert Bierstadt. Assigning each of the seasons as metaphors for Christianity with autumn as the bleakest moment, the exhibition catalogue described the scenes: Spring. Innocence and Love: foundation of all virtue; Summer. Peace and Prosperity: the time of ripening for the harvest of Heaven; Autumn. Affliction: the blessing of the Cross. Seed sown for eternity; Winter. Rest and Hope: a foretaste of blessedness. Faith rewarded.

Joseph Eliot Enneking (1881-1942)
Autumn at the Shore, c. 1920
Oil on canvas
Courtesy of the Cooley Gallery, Old Lyme, CT
Seaside autumn paintings are not typical or, at least, less identifiable, because their locales have fewer deciduous trees. Based in Boston, Enneking also frequently painted in Rockport, near Gloucester, Massachusetts. The forceful orange sets this painting apart from the work of other Impressionists, including his father, John Joseph Enneking. Joseph Eliott also uses the low horizon and vivid blue of the sea for maximum impact.

James Renwick Brevoort (1832-1918)
Autumn Meadows, c. 1870
Oil on board
Collection of Hawthorne Fine Art, New York
Brevoort began his career in the 1850s, when the Hudson River School still governed mainstream American art, but this quiet fishing scene has the feel of a Barbizon summer painting rendered in autumnal colors. The low horizon allows his vibrant twin trees, possibly maples, to dominate the landscape and the painting.
James Renwick Brevoort (1832-1918)
Untitled [Autumn Landscape], n.d.
Watercolor on paper, mounted on board
Collection of the Hudson River Museum, Museum Purchase, 2003.10.03
In 1880, Brevoort settled in Yonkers, New York, a few blocks from Glenview, the future home of the Hudson River Museum. He helped found the Yonkers Art Association and in 1917, exhibited Blustery Day in Fall and Grey Skies and Falling Leaves, titles that underscore his lifelong interest in the many moods of the season.

James Renwick Brevoort (1832-1918)
Autumn Landscape, c. 1870
Watercolor on paper, mounted
Collection of the Hudson River Museum, Gift of Mrs. Frederick Poor, 51.1
The Hudson River Museum has an extensive collection of Brevoort's paintings and drawings. A large summer harvest scene is on display in the Great Hall of Glenview, across the courtyard.

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