Now is the Pilgrim Year Fair Autumn's Charge

JOHN BYAM LISTON SHAW RI ARWS Also known as BYAM SHAW (1872-1919) Biography
PRE-RAPHAELITE (founded 1848) Biography

Now is the Pilgrim Year Fair Autumn's Charge (England, 1904)

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Oil on canvas


88.30cm high
120.00cm wide
(34.76 inches high)
(47.24 inches wide)
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Daniel L. Cameron, 94 Mount Annan Drive, Glasgow; sold at:
Sotheby's Belgarvia, London, Highly Important Victorian Paintings and Drawings, 24 October 1978, catalogue number 14
Private collection, Bath


Rex Vicat Cole, The Art and Life of Byam Shaw, Service, Seeley and Co. London 1932, pages 133
Hutchinson’s Magazine, 1904, reproduced as a large colour plate
Peyton Skipwith, Connoisseur, March 1976, pages 190-191, reproduced.

Exhibition History

London, Royal Academy of Arts, 1904, Summer Exhibition, Number 441
Oxford, Ashmolean Museum, 1986, Byam Shaw, A Selection of Paintings and Book Illustrations, number 25, reproduced

Description / Expertise

Connoisseur, March 1976, pages 190-191, reproduced.

Now is the Pilgrim Year takes an allegorical subject such as Burne-Jones and his followers might have chosen and treats it with the detail and brilliance of colour preferred by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. As Byam Shaw's friend and fellow teacher Rex Vicat Cole described it, “Autumn, with her train held by her maidens leads the old pilgrim year to the boat of Time. Mist rises from the water to touch young sensitive Love. We must recall the russet, red, orange and crimson that glowed from his canvas if we are to enjoy it to the full.”

Autumn is both a time of fruitfulness and melancholy, and Shaw's image evokes both these qualities. On one hand there is Autumn's crown of grain, the girl huntress and a trainbearer with a sickle; on the other is the figure of love nostalgically looking back at the old year and the other trainbearer, dressed in the autumnal hues with last roses and Michaelmas daisies, bidding farewell to the swallow, both of whom foretell the coming winter.

In choosing a subject of pilgrimage and the seasons Byam Shaw could have looked back at several Pre-Raphaelite precedents. Burne-Jones's Love and the Pilgrim appeared at the New Gallery in 1897 and this artist also produced a series of the Seasons in the late 1860's. Frederic Sandys showed Gentle Spring at the Royal Academy in 1865 and there are also a number of relevant works by Crane. By the turn of the century all these images were available to artists in books and photographic reproductions. The title of the work is an enigma. It appears to be a poetic quotation, but is from none of Shaw's preferred writers, including Christina and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Tennyson, and Shakespeare.


Shaw is one of the artists who sought to maintain the traditions of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in the 1890's and early twentieth Century, a period when books and exhibitions had made their works well known. He chose a comparable range of subjects, from modern life and poetry; indeed his paintings were frequently inspired by the verse of Dante Gabriel or Christina Rossetti. These include Silent Noon (Leighton House), Loves Baubles (Walker Library) and The Boer War (Birmingham CM &AG). He painted in a detailed and realistic style, aided by many fine studies, and used pure pigments to obtain colour combinations of a startling brilliance.

He was born in Madras, son of a British civil servant, but returned with his family aged six. He was educated at the St John's Wood Art School, and from 1890 at the Royal Academy Schools. He exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy from 1893 and also produced many pictures for the dealers Dowdeswells. He was an occasional exhibitor at the other London and provincial exhibitions, and was elected member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours in 1889, of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters in 1899, and Associate of the Royal Watercolour Society in 1913. He was a prolific illustrator of books and short stories. His work in this field includes the thirty-nine volumes Chiswick Shakespeare. He was also a dedicated art teacher, and in 1910 founded the independent London Art School, which still bears his name.