A collection of Autumn-inspired artworks from our collection

4 minute read

The leaves are beginning to fall, and the temperatures have suddenly dropped here in Oxford. Autumn is upon us.

Although September and October mark the end of the summer, they are the months when ripened crops are gathered – harvest season is one of the most important times for gardeners and farmers. So we're celebrating the changing season by highlighting some of our favourite autumn-inspired scenes from the collections. 


Flowers of Autumn

by Yamamoto Baiitsu, 1839

Tall painting by Yamamoto Baiitsu of yellow, pink, blue and red flowers and plants, reaching upwards

Yamamoto Baiitsu (1783–1856) was exceptionally skilled in the distinctive mokkotsu and tarashikomi techniques of painting.

Mokkotsu is known as the 'boneless' style, wherein ink or paint is applied with no outlines, or very few, and with washes of ink. Tarashikomi is a technique where a second layer of ink is applied while the first is still wet, creating an effect of pooled colours. It was typically used for petals and leaves, like the large grey-brown leaves here.

Together, these techniques create clarity, serenity and sensuous textures, all very suitable for the tranquility and lyricism Yamamoto was seeking to bring to his image of autumn.

Zoom in to view this artwork up close, and search for more paintings, on our Collections Online website  


Autumn, Morning Mist, Éragny

by Camille Pissarro, 1902

Landscape painting by Camille Pissarro of two small figures in a green field with trees both next to them and in the distance

Camille Pissarro (1830–1903) came to dislike the hard light of summer, in preference for the subtle tones of the other seasons, and this Autumn landscape demonstrates his perfect eye for those gentler tones and nuances.

He painted this same orchard many times, shifting perspective and scale to capture the change of season through composition as well as in the colour and light. This painting's title lists the many qualities Pissarro was able to capture – the season, the time of day, the weather conditions – and encourages comparison with his other paintings done at Éragny, revealing his mastery of atmosphere and tone.

Zoom in to view the artwork up close, and view more artworks by Pissarro, on our Collections Online website  


Maple Trees at Mama, Tekona Shrine, and Linked Bridge

by Utagawa Hiroshige, 1857

Japanese woodblock print by Hiroshige, with brown maple leave in the foreground and mount fuji and a village behind

The woodblock print is perhaps the most familiar form of Japanese art in the west and the masterful Utagawa Hiroshige (1797–1858) is among its greatest practitioners. This print is number 94 in his series One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, and depicts the view from Mama, ten miles outside of central Edo but a popular destination in autumn for its maple trees.

Hiroshige uses the branches and forked trunk of a maple tree as a dramatic framing device for the bridge and shrine beyond, drawing viewers into the scene. The palette of oranges, yellows, browns and greys enhances the autumnal mood, as does the line of geese viewed through the delicate brown leaves.

Zoom in to view the artwork up close, and search for more Japanese woodblock prints, on our Collections Online website  


Allegories of Autumn and Winter

after Giuseppe Arcimboldo

Print in red ink of two figures facing each other, one with a face made of fruit, and the other with a face made of a tree trunk

The Italian artist Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1526-1593) was well-known for his images of human heads created from a collection of unexpected objects, including fish, books, vegetables and flowers.

Using vegetables and fruits to depict seasonal changes is a simple stroke of genius, and the allegorical portrayals of autumn and winter here are inspired by some of Arcimboldo's works. They exploit our familiarity with the horticultural calendar to create an immediate sense of character.

Arcimboldo's allegorical depictions of the seasons were hugely popular with his Renaissance-era audience, and indulged their taste for puzzles, riddles and enigmas. Though many of his works were displaced during the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648) his reputation was revived by Surrealist artists in the early 20th century.