Alfred Thompson Bricher grew up in Newburyport, Massachusetts and it is thought that he was self-taught in his painting technique. In 1851 he worked as a dry-goods clerk in Boston and during this period he may have attended Lowell Institute for fine art. In 1855, he had dedicated himself to being a professional painter and in 1860 was first employed to produce a number of works for L. Prang & Company, a Boston chromolithographer. During the mid-1860s, not unlike his contemporaries, Whittredge, Kensett, Gifford and Bierstadt, he also sketched various settings in New England, the Hudson River Valley and upper Mississippi. Having moved to New York at the end of the decade, Bricher became actively involved in several arts organizations, which expanded his already vast influences and helped establish himself as a painter.
Throughout the 1860s Bricher maintained a studio in Boston on Tremont Street where he would have been in contact with Martin Johnson Heade, Fitz Henry Lane and perhaps even Frederic Church. It was not until the late 1860s, however, when Bricher moved to New York that he became more intimately involved in these art circles and began exhibiting at the Brooklyn Art Association, National Academy of Design, and with the new American Society of Painters in Watercolor. In 1871, Bricher spent his first summer in the Narragansett Bay region, devoting himself to painting the coastal region in this area and soon thereafter, all along the northern New England coast. He would often begin the preliminary oil studies en plein air and then return to his New York studio to complete the finished work.
In 1881 on the occasion of his second marriage to Alice Robinson, Bricher made Southampton, Long Island, his summer home and found a new enthusiasm for large scale works that further explored his familiar seaside imagery while expanding on his figural works from the 1870s. Bricher was a careful, exact observer of nature's patterns. One critic noted that "he was fascinated by the dialogue between patterns of clouds and shafts of light...He knew the coast intimately in all its moods." (J.R. Brown, Alfred Thompson Bricher, Indianapolis, Indiana, p. 12) In Early Autumn on Long Island Bricher has created a rare scene mingling landscape and narrative composed of a subdued fall palette and shimmering layers of light painted over an underlying geometric composition. Strong diagonals and visual landmarks draw the viewer into the scene, including the lone figure at right, the empty punt centrally located in the middle ground, and the one stark sailboat to the left background. Farmhouses can be seen dotted along the horizon and further extend the expansive scene beyond the picture plane. By repeating the subtle tone of purple seen in the lilacs in the foreground in the reflection in the water and again along the low horizon, Bricher similarly uses color to bind the composition together and lead the viewer through the powerfully introspective scene.