Autumn Leaves is a painting created by John Everett Millais, a member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood that was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1856. The painting is known for its stunning depiction of a twilight scene that John Ruskin referred to as “the first instance of perfectly painted twilight.”
The painting shows four girls raking up autumn leaves in a garden, with Millais’ intended focus on creating an image full of beauty and devoid of themes. His aim was to create art for art’s sake without any narrative. This piece shows Millais’ progression in art as he moved away from tight observation to more atmospheric scenes after his marriage.
Millais had rejected the view that Renaissance artists such as Raphael represented the artistic ideal because he wanted to move away from academic styles and help form new ones. Autumn Leaves marks the beginning of the aesthetic movement and helped influence other styles such as Impressionism, which incorporated atmosphere into their paintings.
The painting has personal significance for Millais as well; it shows his love for nature and captures his memories from childhood when he would rake up leaves with friends. The Pre-Raphaelites sought connections between humanity and nature, which is evident in this scenic picture. Overall, Autumn Leaves represents one of John Everett Millais’ most influential works while marking significant changes during his artistic journey towards modernism.