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As summer takes leave, Mother Earth ushers in the most benevolent season of all—autumn, a time of multi-hued splendour.
In India, the departing monsoons signify the beginning of autumn. Nature paints our landscape in fresh, cool, and clean shades. The morning sky is a fresh, soft shade of blue deepening as the day goes by into brilliant cerulean. Leaves glow green having been washed of summer’s dust by the rain. The Coromandel and Malabar coastlines are particularly advantageous as the setting sun treats everyone to a sky dramatic with slashes of smoky violet, gashes of orange, and accents of red. As the glowing disc dips below the horizon, soft blends of grey and mauve curtains fall upon this daily spectacle. The colour of autumn sunlight is distinctive in itself. The brassy yellow glare of summer gives way to mellow radiance—a pale ochre that’s best captured by the word godhuli—that time of the day in villages across India when the cows come home and the dust kicked up by their hooves glows golden in the slanting sun rays.
In one of his greatest works, “Meghaduta,” the Sanskrit poet Kalidasa, likened a passing cloud to a messenger of love. The colours are a significant part of the imagery in the poem.
In temperate zones autumn is the time of falling leaves. As the season rolls by, greens give way to a spectacular range of russet, terracotta, tan, coral, burnished yellow, and roast brown. But there’s more to autumn than rich, mature colours. In the western hemisphere, autumn is an all-too-brief season of transition before the onset of a long, freezing winter. As the season nears its end, nature adds new colours to her palette, moving from warm gold, mustard, and brown to soft neutrals. The sky loses its exuberance, fading to infinite shades of grey. Rose bushes stand bereft of blooms, save for a few tired damask petals. Fallen leaves drenched in chilly rain turn to dull taupe.
While every season captures nature’s hues in its own distinctive way, none have stirred the imagination as autumn does with its splendid range of colours. In cultures worldwide autumn is synonymous with harvest and therefore, plenitude. Western classical art frequently personifies the season as a woman. For example, the Renaissance painter Botticelli’s “Autumn or Allegory Against the Abuse of Wine” depicts autumn as a mother accompanied by two small children. On her head she carries a cornucopia of ripened fruit. A common theme in work by Alphonse Mucha is also the allegory of seasons as women. Willowy young women, in long flowing robes surrounded by stylised, ornamental, natural forms in pastels are typical of Mucha’s style. In his work, autumn is defined with the use of dry leaves and fruit, and harvest in hues of orange and red. In addition to art, the Romantic poets such as John Keats found inspiration in autumn and wrote evocatively of its abundance as well as its melancholy.IMAGE CREDITS • Brian Snelson » flickr.com/photos/exfordy/365115350/ • Jean Bal » flickr.com/photos/jeanbal/6368970327/ • Slack12 » flickr.com/photos/slack12/298391148/ • Alphonse Mucha » wikipaintings.org/en/alphonse-mucha/ the-autumn-1896
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