Fall is upon us, and with it comes the crisp promise of nature's most spectacular art show. But New England is not only the home of fabulous foliage; it's also the site of an ever-expanding visual arts scene, which is just now swinging into full gear for what should be an especially exciting season.
The museum highlight of the year should be the blockbuster ''Edgar Degas, the Painter as Printmaker,'' at the Museum of Fine Arts (Nov. 14-Jan. 13). This is the type of show the MFA does best. Although most of us are familiar with Degas's oils and pastels, he was also a prolific printmaker, and the museum has assembled all known etchings and lithographs by this great Impressionist master.
And through Sunday, you can still catch the tail end of the modern-master and contemporary prints selected from the collection of Lois and Michael Torf, which is arguably the finest of its kind in the country.
Across the river at Harvard University's Fogg Art Museum, big changes are under way as the Sackler Museum nears completion. Despite the hectic nature of the coming period, the Fogg has managed to schedule several noteworthy exhibitions. Of particular interest will be ''Master Drawings and Water-colors: The Hofer Collection,'' a broad spectrum of high-quality works on paper by such diverse artists as Goya, Fitz Hugh Lane, and Andrew Wyeth (through Nov. 29).
The Institute of Contemporary Art continues to shake up the scene with its second year of ''Currents,'' an ongoing melange of mini-exhibits that change at different rates. Although this can be somewhat confusing, it does offer a lively showcase for important New York and International works otherwise rarely seen in this area. Through Nov. 4, you can see the dazzling video installation by TV wizard Nam June Paik on the ICA's top floor, while the basement galleries host ''Revising Romance: New Feminist Video,'' a wry look through artistic eyes at changing male/female roles.
Two ''don't miss'' gallery shows in the latest neo-Expressionist mode include a November show by local painter Doug Anderson at Stux Gallery, and an October show at Alpha Gallery, of the work of internationally acclaimed German painter A. R. Penck.
Rounding out a full cultural roster is the showing of ''The Last Works of Phillip Guston'' at the Hayden Gallery at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. Mr. Guston is an artist whose courage to paint in an awkwardly realistic style during the heyday of '50s Abstract Expressionism earned him an influential place among the generation now emerging. (Through Nov. 25.)