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#SOSMonday – Shades of Autumn

Welcome to our online art exhibition marking the changing of the seasons from summer to autumn!

Below you will find a collection of paintings and useful vocabulary to describe them. Enjoy!

Katsushika Hokusai, Peasants in autumn, XVIII-XIX cent, Guimet Museum

Details of the Painting (Title, Artist, Materials, Size, Location)

The title is generally written in italics. You could start by defining the painting in terms of art form or type. The painting can be a portrait, a self-portrait, a land/sea/cityscape, a still-life or an abstract painting .

Say also what period it is from (‘It dates from…’ or ‘It was painted in…’). Here is a list of the main periods in the history of art: Middle Ages, Renaissance, Baroque, Neoclassicism, Romanticism, Modern Art, Impressionism, Symbolism, Art Nouveau, Cubism, Futurism, Surrealism.

The most common painting techniques are oil on canvas, watercolour, pastel on paper, tempera on board or wood panel. 

You can say: ‘The painting measures … by… (inches/cm) and it is painted in…’.

Finally, talk about the museum/gallery where it is housed. You can write: ‘It is housed in … or ‘It hangs in …’.

Edward Hopper, October on Cape Cod, 1946, private collection

Description (Subject Matter and Structure)

The subject may be religious or it may be a natural scenery (mountains, hills, valleys, fields, woods, sky). If it is a portrait, it can be a family portrait, a self-portrait, a nude

A still-life may have as a subject a vase with flowers, some books or some fruit. 

Finally a historical subject may represent a hero of the past or mythological figures. 

The verbs that you may need to describe the subject are: to depict, to show, to represent, to illustrate, and to portray.

At this point you can describe what you see in the foreground, in the middle ground, and in the background. 

Wassily Kandinsky, Autumn in Bavaria, 1908

Technique and Colours

Talking of technique, you might consider perspective and sfumato. 

Lines may be straight or curving, and shapes are geometric, spherical or linear

Brushstrokes may be broad, loose, fine or blended, while texture can be rough/smooth, glossy/opaque.

As for colours, remember that warm colours are yellow, orange, and red; cold colours are blue, purple, and green

Colours may also be pale or bright, brilliant or soft, light or dark.

David Hockney, Woldgate Woods, 2008, private collection

Interpretation (Theme, Symbols, Atmosphere)

The theme of a painting may be the natural/urban world, life and death, myth, or a historical event. The verbs you may need to describe symbols are to symbolise, to be a symbol of, to stand for or to represent.

Finally, describe the atmosphere. The following adjectives may be useful: peaceful, gloomy, sad, serene, violent.

Claude Monet, Autumn on the Seine at Argenteuil, 1873, High Museum of Art
Jean-Francois Millet, Haystacks Autumn, 1873, private collection
Egon Schiele, Four Trees, 1917, Belvedere, Vienna
Paul Gauguin, Landscape in Arles near the Alyscamps, 1888, Musée d’Orsay
Henri Rousseau, Eiffel Tower at Sunset, 1910, private collection