When the days get shorter, the trees burst with magnificent colors, offering artists a natural bounty unmatched by any other season.
Although we can enjoy the splendor with a simple walk through the forest, we can take the magic home by displaying fall paintings in our hearths.
Famous Autumn Paintings
Throughout history, artists captured the gorgeous colors in landscapes and still life, exploring harvest motifs while trying to convey the majestic beauty inherent in the cycle of death and rebirth.
Here are some of the most famous autumn paintings to immerse you in the season’s splendor.
The Origin of the Cornucopia, Abraham Janssens (ca. 1619)
Janssens’ fall painting showcases nymphs collecting fruit for a cornucopia. The work is considered one of the first representations of the cornucopia, a traditional system of harvest and abundance, in Western art, though the symbol originated in Ancient Greek mythology.
It’s also one of the earliest examples of autumn paintings celebrating the harvest.
Abundance (Abundantia), Peter Paul Rubens (c. 1630)
The Renaissance work featuring a woman holding a cornucopia overflowing with bounty while her two children collect the falling fruits features a subdued palette of reds and oranges, reminiscent of the fall season.
Peasants in Autumn, Hokusai (1760-1849)
Famed Japanese artist Hokusai captured the true essence of autumn with his scene of daily life during the harvest.
The Ukiyo-e style painting shows peasants harvesting rice, while the spectacular coloration in the trees suggests the autumn evening. The exact date of the work is unknown, but it is an early example of fall paintings celebrating the workers responsible for the bounty.
Landscape with Two Figures at Sunset, Thomas Cole (1825)
One of his earliest works, Landscape with Two Figures at Sunset, features two small figures almost becoming one with the rugged autumn landscape in the New York Catskills.
Cole’s Landscape with Two Figures at Sunset is part of a private collection and therefore not available on the Public Domain. You may view it here.
View on the Catskill—Early Autumn, Thomas Cole (1836-37)
At first glance, one might assume Cole’s View on the Catskill – Early Autumn showcased the mountains in their deep summer glory.
The dramatic greens and peaceful picnic represent a summer scene betrayed by the slight browning of the leaves and the auburn tint used throughout the piece.
Forest in Autumn, Gustave Courbet (1841)
The dramatic forest scene by French realist Courbet showcases the delicate balance of life and death inherent in the changing seasons. As a hunter sets a deer in his sights, the forest itself dies in spectacular bursts of bright red leaves.
Autumn Afternoon, the Wissahickon, Thomas Moran (1864)
American Naturalists showcased nature’s majestic glory in dramatic scenes highlighting the vast expense of American wilderness.
Autumn Afternoon features a serene scene of cows drinking at a river, but the forest towering on the cliffs overhead, with their brilliant reds, yellows, and oranges, portends the coming winter.
Mountain Lake in Autumn, Louis Remy Mignot (1861)
Mignot, another American Naturalist associated with the Hudson River school, captured the serenity of a warm fall day in his Mountain Lake in Autumn.
The scene features a small boat on a river surrounded by autumn foliage. The warm orange glow creates a sense of nostalgia for the end of summer.
This image is not part of the public domain, but can be viewed here.
Autumn on the Seine at Argenteuil, Claude Monet (1873)
The Impressionists have a way with color, celebrating the interactions between light and color like no other style before or after.
Monet’s Autumn on the Seine at Argenteuil suggests the flow of changing seasons with the vivid autumn colors bursting from the foliage on the left, to the cold blues representing winter in the village back to the right bank with a slight hint of green to represent the coming spring.
The Harvest, Camille Pissarro (1882)
The green-to-yellow palate featured in Pissarro’s The Harvest suggests the changing seasons from summer to fall. Peasants dressed in long sleeves work tirelessly to collect the field’s bounties before the onset of winter.
This celebration of the common man was popular in impressionist work and a common theme of fall paintings from the era.
Avenue of Poplars in Autumn, Vincent Van Gogh (1884)
Avenue of Polars in Autumn showcases a woman walking away from a farmhouse down a trail with looming poplar trees lining both sides.
The fall season is apparent in the vibrant red and orange leaves, made brighter by the dark blue sky of a setting sun.
A similar fall painting by Van Gogh, Autumn Tree Lined Lane Leading to a Farmhouse, shows the same scene in a different light. The trees are darker brown in the bright blue light of the full day.
The Harvest, Vincent van Gogh (1888)
Van Gogh’s The Harvest showcases his obsession with Japanese work. The dark lines and deep perspective remind us of Hokusai’s Ukiyo-e style, highlighting the Japanese influence on Van Gogh.
The Harvest features a multi-perspective view of landscapes during fall – a valley littered with homesteads and fields, a trail with brush in the forefront, and the distant mountains in the back give us an almost three-day view of the landscape.
The Garden of Saint Paul’s Hospital (Leaf Fall) by Vincent Van Gogh (c. 1889)
Van Gogh’s masterful brushstrokes speak to all the senses, allowing viewers to feel the brisk, chaotic wind of an autumn storm. The browns, dark oranges, and the figure dressed in a long coat place us on a chilly late-fall day.
2 Yellow Leaves (Yellow Leaves), Georgia O’Keeffe (1928)
Georgia O’Keefe catapulted to fame by creating up-close portraits of plant parts like leaves and flowers. Her most “autumn” painting is 2 Yellow Leaves, which, as described, shows two yellow leaves in their glory.
The painting suggests the flow from life to death, as both leaves have a lingering tint of green on their left sides while their right sides are starting to brown.
As 2 Yellow Leaves is not yet 100 years old, it’s not available on the public domain. It can be viewed at the Brooklyn Musuem here.
Autumn Rhythm (Number 30), Jackson Pollock 1950
Jackson Pollock’s Autumn Rythm makes the list of Autumn paintings due to its name, which reflects the season in which it was created.
The abstract artwork features Pollock’s trademark drip pattern in black and white on a slightly brown-tinted canvas. Pollock made the drip painting famous, but only this one has any hint of the fall.
Celebrate the Season with Art
These spectacular fall paintings remind us that artists throughout history celebrated the changing seasons in the best way they knew how. From classical representations of bounty-filled cornucopias to dramatic fall landscapes highlighting nature’s vast expense, autumn paintings provide a plethora of ways to enjoy and celebrate the seasons.
Melanie Allen is an American journalist and happiness expert. She has bylines on MSN, the AP News Wire, Wealth of Geeks, Media Decision, and numerous media outlets across the nation. She covers a wide range of topics centered around self-actualization and the quest for a fulfilling life.