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31 by 24 in.
78.7 by 61 cm
signed TMR and dated 1887 (lower right); signed and inscribed T. M. Rooke, Autumn's Pipe, Queen Anne's Gardens, Bedford Park, Turnham Green on an old label on the reverse
oil on panel
London, Royal Academy, no. 104
Serving as a studio assistant to Edward Coley Burne-Jones from 1869, Thomas Matthews Rooke assisted in the design work for William Morris & Company, decorating furniture and designing stained glass. These two powerful influences in Rooke's artistic career are evident in his compelling Autumn's Pipe, a work inspired by the Pre-Raphaelites and created with technique informed by the tenants of the Arts and Crafts movement. As with so many of Burne-Jones' masterworks, the subject of Rooke's painting is mythological, if more allegorical and less organized around a specific Classical tale. Here a maiden, the allegory of Autumn in a gown the color of fallen leaves with a small harvesting scythe tucked into her belt, perches in an apple tree and holds a pipe to her lips. Lost in the musical reverie, the piper's companion has taken a break from reading her illuminated book to listen; a fur stole provides her warmth from the crisp day and cool ground dotted with fallen fruit. Devoid of an explicit narrative, Rooke focuses attention on the intricate ornamental details of trees, leaves and drapery. Rich, red flowers pop out from green-blue foliage while thin strokes of black paint intertwine with wider grey and brown strokes to create the gnarled trunk of the apple tree. The picture space is filled with fine, interlocking brushstrokes and complex color patterns. While not overtly painterly, the canvas surface has a textural feel, reminiscent of medieval crewel work tapestries. This effect is likely intentional; given his association with Morris and Burne-Jones, Rooke would have shared in the appreciation of medieval craft and fabric (Figure 1). Like a masterwork of tapestry, Rooke's piece is remarkable in its long, vertical forms, intertwined, undulating fruit and vine motifs, and layers of color and design (Figure 2). The overall effect reveals the incredible, visual possibilities and diverse inspirations for decoration that the Arts and Crafts movement introduced to artists like Rooke.