Dimensions: H 36", W 70"

Keywords: Evelyn De Morgan, allegorical painting, harvest, autumn, fruits and vegetables, garland of leaves, waterwheel, passing of summer

Dates: 1905

Marks / Inscriptions: Signature, painted, lower left: "EDeM 1905"


The use of the four seasons to illustrate the cycle of life is a well-rehearsed trope in philosophy, Christianity and art. A cadence is the close of a musical phrase and thus the cadence of autumn is symbolic of the end of the seasons of youth, gaiety and plenty, and the approach towards winter and old age. This view is borne out by the symbolism of the painting itself. The left-hand side of the work is bright in colour and the young female in her mauve robes symbolises spring. The two central figures who are harvesting an abundance of fruit depict summer; towards the right of the picture, the females are older and the colours more muted and sombre,  illustrating the autumn of life and the descent towards death.

By 1905 Evelyn De Morgan was 50 and had lived through several periods of international unrest including the two Boer Wars. It is therefore perhaps no surprise that her thoughts became more and more preoccupied with the end of her life and death.
However, Evelyn often imbued her paintings with dual meanings and through the medium of her art she became increasingly outspoken regarding her opinion on the British government’s political machinations and stance on the unrest in Europe. Therefore this painting can also be read as a critique of the Boer War by symbolising the end of abundance and gaiety for Britain as a whole and the descent into the hopelessness and austerity of a war-torn country.

Associated works in our collection: 

Study of female head for 'The Cadence of Autumn'   (D_EDM_0018)

Study of a female head for 'The Cadence of Autumn'   (D_EDM_0031)

Study for 'The Cadence of Autumn' (drapery)      (D_EDM_0039)

Study of female arms and hands for 'The Cadence of Autumn' and 'Night and Dawn' (D_EDM_0147)

Object Location: Loan - Watts Gallery Artists Village