Oil on canvas.
This painting is one of Sandys' most ambitious and successful works. Painted soon after his first encounters with the PRB it shows the influence of their ideas on his work, with its rich colours, minute detail and symbolic meaning.
Several studies for this painting exist and in fact the largest of them, included in the exhibition, was shown at the Royal Academy instead of the finished oil. The landscape is highly influenced by the beautiful background of Millais' otherwise disastrous painting 'Sir Isumbras at the Ford'. Although Sandys used that painting as a basis for a savage cartoon, called 'A Nightmare' he also used Millias' work in a more positive way to create the stunning riverscape and sunset sky we see here.
As is typical in Sandys' work, each aspect of 'Autumn' has been painted in incredible detail. It is possible to identify the uniform and medals of the soldier - he was a member of the West Norfolk Militia Battalion of the 9th Infantry Regiment. In fact the family in 'Autumn' were probably a real Norwich family whom Sandys often used a models. The man is seen again in 'The Old Chartist' whilst the girl appears as the heroine of 'The Portent'.
Sandys has left us with a mystery to the complete meaning of the painting, however, with the curious inclusion of the group of objects at the front of the painting which includes a Chinese ginger jar. Many people have tried to guess, including the Colman family who owned this picture at one time. One guest of the Colman's wrote a witty poem describing what he thought 'Autumn' was about:
Bequeathed by R.J. Colman, 1946
Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery