Autumn 1889 signed and dated 'E P Fox 89' lower left oil on canvas 81.6 x 116.5cm (32 1/8 x 45 7/8in).
PROVENANCE Possibly Joel Fox, Melbourne (the artist's brother) Geoffrey Summers, Melbourne Private collection, Melbourne Deutscher Fine Art, Melbourne The Farrow Collection, Melbourne The Farrow Sale, Leonard Joel, Melbourne, 27 November 1991, lot 17 Private collection, Melbourne
EXHIBITED Societe des Artistes Francais, The Old Salon, Paris, 1890, cat. 960 Exhibitions of Works of Victorian Artists and a Loan Collection of Pictures, Exhibition Building, Melbourne, 1890, cat. 23 Melbourne Art Salon, Australian Buildings, Melbourne, 1892 Victorian Artist's Society Loan Exhibition, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1893, cat. 147 Australian Art: 1790s-1970s, Deutscher Fine Art, Melbourne, 24 November - 9 December 1988, cat. no. 21 (illus.) The Art of E. Philips Fox, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 9 November 1994 - 30 January 1995, cat. no. 2 Impressions of Colour: Colour in Australian Art, Lauraine Diggins Fine Art, Melbourne, 18 August - 29 September 2012, cat. no. 7 (illus.)
LITERATURE Len Fox, E. Phillips Fox and his family, Sydney, 1985, p.36 Helen Leembruggen, E Phillips Fox: Catalogue of Works, BA thesis, University of Melbourne, 1962, cat. no. 3, (illus.) Ruth Zubans, E. Phillips Fox: His Life and Art, The Miegunyah Press, Melbourne, 1995, cat. no. 11, pg. 22 (illus.), p.20, pp. 31, 34-38, 79 Ruth Zubans, E. Phillips Fox 1865 - 1915, National Gallery of Victoria, 1994, cat. no. 2, (illus.), p.18, pp.2-3, 18
"Autumn and the now damaged The Knitter were the two paintings with which Fox made his debut at the Paris Salon in 1890. When Autumn was exhibited in Melbourne soon after, it was highly praised. Painted in the region of Finistère in Brittany, France, from open air studies, it is an evocative depiction of autumn mists and russet tones with a lone figure humanising the scene. Associated with the passing of human life, the theme of autumn was a favourite subject at the end of the century."1
Born in Melbourne, Fox enrolled at the Gallery School in 1878. In 1887 he departed for Paris and studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. He also took lessons from Thomas Alexander Harrison who painted in an 'impressionist' style. Phillips Fox took part in plein air excursions to Brittany and stayed with the plein air painters of St Ives. Upon returning to Melbourne, he and Tudor St George Tucker opened a summer school at 'Chartersville', teaching methods 'based on the French system.'
Painted in 1889, Autumn was based on plein-air sketches made in Brittany, a region particularly inspiring for artists, perhaps most famously Gauguin who was in Le Pouldu in October 1889 where Fox spent the summer and autumn of 1889. The inclusion of the peasant figure harks back to Bastien-Lepage and Millet.2
"The picture of Autumn ....represents a wood in Finistère in mid autumn. A silvery grey sky is visible through the interwoven boughs, half despoiled of their verdure. The ground is thickly strewn with dead leaves of rich russet brown, and the solitary figure of an old woman bending under her load of faggots descends the winding road. All the joyous brilliancy and active life of summer are fled, and a feeling of stillness and repose reigns everywhere".3
"The colours are more subdued ... to achieve the desired autumnal effect, but Fox has effectively captured the damp of the scene with cool blue-greens, and the soft blurring towards the back suggests a rising mist. Fox's sure sense as a colourist is apparent in his use of the contrasting russets and blues."4
1 Ruth Zubans, E. Phillips Fox 1865 1915, National Gallery of Victoria, 1994, p.2 2 Ruth Zubans, E. Phillips Fox: His Life and Art, The Miegunyah Press, Melbourne, 1995, p. 37 3 The Age, 6 Dec 1892 4 Ruth Zubans, E. Phillips Fox: His Life and Art, The Miegunyah Press, Melbourne, 1995, p. 38