richard green Ken Howard

John Atkinson Grimshaw (Leeds 1836 - 1893)

  • John Atkinson Grimshaw - Liverpool Docks
    John Atkinson Grimshaw Liverpool Docks Signed, lower left: Atkinson Grimshaw
    Oil on canvas
    20 x 30 in
    50.8 x 76.2 cm
    Full details

    BS 155

     

    JOHN ATKINSON GRIMSHAW

     1836 - Leeds - 1893

     

    Liverpool Docks

     

    Signed, lower left: Atkinson Grimshaw

    Oil on canvas: 20 x 30 in / 50.8 x 73.7 cm

    Frame size: 25 ¾ x 35 ¾ in / 65.4 x 90.8 cm

     

    Provenance:

    Private Collection, UK

     

     

    In the latter half of the 1870’s it is thought that Atkinson Grimshaw was facing financial ruin and had to sell and leave his home in Scarborough – a house called Castle-by-the-Sea, after the Longfellow poem – and return to Leeds and Knostrop Hall, where he set upon increasing his output of work in order to support his family. Liverpool Docks was a part of this surge in Grimshaw’s productivity along with at least fifty other Nocturnes like it.

     

    The docksides of Liverpool were one of Grimshaw’s favourite locations to paint his distinctive nocturnal townscapes. Although Liverpool was the setting for innumerable dockside scenes, Grimshaw would also depicted the streets of Glasgow, Hull, Clydeside and Gloucester. The night scenes that he created during this period were extremely popular. Grimshaw managed to breathe romance into these inner-city landscapes whilst capturing the aesthetic of modern, industrial life. Moonlight was as important a feature to the paintings as the masts of the ships rising from the dockside itself. ‘Grimshaw was supremely competent in the technique of representing moonlight shining through cloud by the use of soft glazes over patches of dense paint … Whistler is said to have acknowledged him as the inventor of the ‘Nocturne’. Grimshaw’s moonlight shone on all his subjects from landscapes to city streets.’[1]

     

    In Liverpool Docks smog lies thick upon the entire scene and as the moonlight tries to penetrate through the thick cloud it creates a warm blood-orange filter through which to view the night. The light cast out from the shop fronts and gas lights dotted along the street only add to this golden glow and though they are characteristics to be expected of a late Victorian era street they appear understatedly elegant. In this painting Grimshaw exhibits his powers of observation, with the ghost-like masts of ships bobbing on the water beneath them or through the wet cobbles catching the glare from the street lights above them. Liverpool Docks shows a town and its inhabitants in an age of industrial growth ‘that Grimshaw has transformed at night into a scene of mysterious activity’ and wonder.[2]

     

    Alexander Robertson particularly praises Grimshaw’s Liverpool dockside paintings in his monograph on the artist: ‘(these pictures’) quality comes from Grimshaw’s care over his handling of paint. There is no hint of mechanical ruling. The rigging has a rich and smudgy feel, where lines sink into the background surface. The skyline and distance are hazy with enveloping gloom, even the mud on the road is painted with care so that it catches the light from the lamps and shop windows. The usual Grimshaw figures and carriages also seem fresh and spontaneous images. Here the artist has created a rare sense of place and time, a scene of modern life which yet has a quality of distance and mystery.’ [Alexander Robertson, Atkinson Grimshaw]

     

     

                            

    John Atkinson Grimshaw, Liverpool Docks, 1892               John Atkinson Grimshaw, Liverpool Quay by

    Oil on canvas: 31 x 46.5 cm                                           Moonlight, 1887

    Kirklees Museums and Galleries                                                 Oil on canvas: 61 x 91.4 cm

                                                                                        Tate Britain

     

     

     

     

    JOHN ATKINSON GRIMSHAW

    1836 - Leeds - 1893

     

    John Atkinson Grimshaw was a Victorian artist who became famous for his sombre views of the dockyards and his nocturnal scenes of urban lanes with leafless trees silhouetted against the moonlight sky. During his later life, he became a close friend of James McNeill Whistler who admired his work and admitted: ‘I considered myself the inventor of nocturnes until I saw Grimmy’s moonlight picture.’

     

    Born in Leeds, the son of an ex-policeman, Grimshaw first took up painting while he was employed as a clerk for the Great Northern Railway. He married his cousin Frances Theodosia Hubbarde in 1858 and by 1861; he had abandoned his job in order to devote all his time to becoming an artist. In his early work, John Atkinson Grimshaw was influenced by John Ruskin’s creed of ‘truth to nature’ and adopted the detailed Pre-Raphaelite technique of the Leeds painter, John William Inchbold. He was also fascinated by the relatively new art of photography and may have used a camera obscura in developing his compositions. 

     

    Towards 1865, he renounced this painting style. He painted many urban scenes in which moonlight and shadows were the most striking features. The towns and docks that he painted most frequently were Glasgow, Liverpool, Leeds, Scarborough, Whitby and London. These works have become his best known though he also painted landscapes, portraits, interior scenes, fairy pictures and neo-classical subjects. Grimshaw painted mostly for private patrons. He only exhibited five works at the Royal Academy between 1874 and 1876.

     

    By 1870, Grimshaw had become successful enough to move to Knostrop Old Hall, a seventeenth century mansion about two miles from the centre of Leeds, which featured in many of his paintings. He rented another home near Scarborough which he called ‘The Castle by the Sea’, towards 1876. Grimshaw suffered a serious financial disaster in 1879 and had to leave his house at Scarborough. He moved to London and rented a studio in Chelsea, leaving his family at Knostrop. He returned to Knostrop, where he died in 1893.  Several of his children, Arthur Grimshaw (1864-1913), Louis H Grimshaw (1870-1944), Wilfred Grimshaw (1871-1937) and Elaine Grimshaw (1877-1970), became painters.

     

    The work of Grimshaw is represented in the Bradford City Art Gallery, the Shipley Art Gallery, Gateshead, the Gloucester Museum and Art Gallery, the Bankfield Museum, Halifax, the Harrogate Museums and Art Gallery, the Ferens Art Gallery, Kingston-upon-Hull, the Huddersfield Art Gallery, Kirklees Metropolitan Council, the Harris Art Gallery, Preston, the Leeds City Art Gallery, the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, the Guildhall Art Gallery and the Tate Gallery, London, the Scarborough Art Gallery, the Wakefield Art Gallery and Museums, the Pannett Gallery, Whitby, the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Brest, France, the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut, the Nelson-Atkins Gallery, Kansas City, Missouri, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, Minnesota, the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut, the Museum of Art, New Orleans, Louisiana, the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Rhode Island in the United States, the Shepparton Art Centre, Welsford, Victoria, Australia and the King George VI Art Gallery, Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

     

     

    [1] David Bromfield, Atkinson Grimshaw 1836-93, (The Scholar Press, West Yorkshire, 1979), p.13

    [2] Alexander Robertson, Atkinson Grimshaw, (Phaidon Press, Oxford, 1988), p. 73

  • John Atkinson Grimshaw - The Last Gleam
    John Atkinson Grimshaw The Last Gleam Signed and dated, lower right: Atkinson Grimshaw 1883+
    Oil on canvas
    20 x 30 in
    50.8 x 76.2 cm
    Full details

    BP 109

     

    JOHN ATKINSON GRIMSHAW

    1836 - Leeds - 1893

     

    The Last Gleam

     

    Signed and dated lower right: Atkinson Grimshaw 1883 +

    Oil on canvas: 20 x 30 in / 50.8 x 76.2 cm

    Frame size: 26 x 36 in / 66 x 91.4 cm

     

    Painted circa 1883

     

    Provenance:

    Ferrers, London

    Private Collection UK, 1973, then by family descent

     

     

    ‘But perhaps most appealing to the modern audience is Grimshaw’s depiction of a Victorian world of suburban lanes with half-hidden houses and city streets, docks and fishing ports flooded by moonlight, creating an atmosphere of poetic nostalgia which makes Grimshaw, at his best, unique.’[1] (Alexander Robertson)

     

    Grimshaw’s depiction of the magical atmosphere that light can create is what ensures his status as one of the masters of Victorian oil painting. The Last Gleam, unlike his moonlit street scenes, has a dusky glow that distinctively marks the season and conjures up ‘the smell of damp leaves in the air, and the bright but chill light of autumn’ with a beautiful naturalism[2]. At the start of the 1880’s Grimshaw was producing the work he has become best known for and the faintly illuminated sky of The Last Gleam is demonstrative of this. In 1883 Grimshaw used the same large half-timbered house numerous times in different settings, making each variation unique. It was a rarity in the Industrial Revolution era for a street to be so utterly deserted and in comparison to the crude labour-intensive environments the factories had created; this painting would have appeared idyllic. With the fallen leaves littering the lane, Grimshaw creates nostalgia for a decaying ‘golden’ age which is further enhanced by the inclusion of the figure wearing eighteenth century costume.

     

    To the left of the lane’s roadside and running parallel to the figure’s path is a long puddle. Grimshaw’s repetition of the palette through a reflective surface is common, as ‘most of the lanes are depicted as just having had a shower of rain, which greatly simplifies the colour scheme’ and allows for the twilight tonality of the sky to reoccur throughout the painting[3]. The outline of the lane is decorated with leafless silhouetted trees, whose branches reach out to touch the golden yellow afternoon sky that glows with the rich golden rays of the setting sun.

     

    The Last Gleam exemplifies Grimshaw’s strong connection to the ideal of the family home, which was a belief of paramount importance in Victorian society. It was thought that Grimshaw shared his ideals with fellow artist James Abbott McNeill Whistler along with their joint affinity to nature. Whistler was even listed as one of Grimshaw’s friends in his Yorkshire Post obituary. An annotated copy of Whistler’s The Gentle Art of Making Enemies embodies this, in which Grimshaw had marked a famous passage from his Ten O’Clock Lecture – ‘… the warehouses are palaces in the night, and the whole city hangs in the heavens, and fairy-land is before us – then the wayfarer hastens home; the working man and the cultured one, the wise man and the one of pleasure, cease to understand, as they have ceased to see, and Nature, who, for once, has sung in tune, sings her exquisite song to the artist alone, her son and master – her son in that he loves her, her master in that he knows her.’

     

     

     

     

                   

    Under the Beeches, John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1892              November Morning, Knostrop Hall, Leeds, John Atkinson

    Oil on canvas: 30.5 x 45.8 cm                                               Grimshaw, 1883

    Laing Art Gallery                                                                   Oil on canvas: 61 x 86.4 cm

    Shipley Art Gallery, Gateshead

    JOHN ATKINSON GRIMSHAW

    1836 - Leeds - 1893

     

    John Atkinson Grimshaw was a Victorian artist who became famous for his sombre views of the dockyards and his nocturnal scenes of urban lanes with leafless trees silhouetted against the moonlight sky. During his later life, he became a close friend of James McNeill Whistler who admired his work and admitted: ‘I considered myself the inventor of nocturnes until I saw Grimmy’s moonlight picture.’

     

    Born in Leeds, the son of an ex-policeman, Grimshaw first took up painting while he was employed as a clerk for the Great Northern Railway. He married his cousin Frances Theodosia Hubbarde in 1858 and by 1861; he had abandoned his job in order to devote all his time to becoming an artist. In his early work, John Atkinson Grimshaw was influenced by John Ruskin’s creed of ‘truth to nature’ and adopted the detailed Pre-Raphaelite technique of the Leeds painter, John William Inchbold. He was also fascinated by the relatively new art of photography and may have used a camera obscura in developing his compositions.  

     

    Towards 1865, he renounced this painting style. He painted many urban scenes in which moonlight and shadows were the most striking features. The towns and docks that he painted most frequently were Glasgow, Liverpool, Leeds, Scarborough, Whitby and London. These works have become his best known though he also painted landscapes, portraits, interior scenes, fairy pictures and neo-classical subjects. Grimshaw painted mostly for private patrons. He only exhibited five works at the Royal Academy between 1874 and 1876.

     

    By 1870, Grimshaw had become successful enough to move to Knostrop Old Hall, a seventeenth century mansion about two miles from the centre of Leeds, which featured in many of his paintings. He rented another home near Scarborough which he called ‘The Castle by the Sea’, towards 1876. Grimshaw suffered a serious financial disaster in 1879 and had to leave his house at Scarborough. He moved to London and rented a studio in Chelsea, leaving his family at Knostrop. He returned to Knostrop, where he died in 1893.  Several of his children, Arthur Grimshaw (1864-1913), Louis H Grimshaw (1870-1944), Wilfred Grimshaw (1871-1937) and Elaine Grimshaw (1877-1970), became painters.

     

    The work of Grimshaw is represented in the Bradford City Art Gallery, the Shipley Art Gallery, Gateshead, the Gloucester Museum and Art Gallery, the Bankfield Museum, Halifax, the Harrogate Museums and Art Gallery, the Ferens Art Gallery, Kingston-upon-Hull, the Huddersfield Art Gallery, Kirklees Metropolitan Council, the Harris Art Gallery, Preston, the Leeds City Art Gallery, the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, the Guildhall Art Gallery and the Tate Gallery, London, the Scarborough Art Gallery, the Wakefield Art Gallery and Museums, the Pannett Gallery, Whitby, the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Brest, France, the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut, the Nelson-Atkins Gallery, Kansas City, Missouri, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, Minnesota, the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut, the Museum of Art, New Orleans, Louisiana, the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Rhode Island in the United States, the Shepparton Art Centre, Welsford, Victoria, Australia and the King George VI Art Gallery, Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

     

     

    [1]Alexander Robertson, Jane Sellars (ed.), Atkinson Grimshaw Painter of Moonlight, (The Mercer Art Gallery, Harrogate, 2011), p. 23

    [2]Alexander Robertson, Atkinson Grimshaw, (Phaidon Press Ltd, London, 1988), p.102

    [3]Steve Phillips, Jane Sellars (ed.), Atkinson Grimshaw Painter of Moonlight, The Mercer Art Gallery, Harrogate, 2011,  p.145

  • John Atkinson Grimshaw - The Quiet of the Lake, Roundhay Park
    John Atkinson Grimshaw The Quiet of the Lake, Roundhay Park Signed and dated, lower left: Atkinson Grimshaw 1870+
    Oil on card
    8 7/8 x 13 3/4 in
    22.5 x 34.9 cm
    Full details

    SP 5527

     

    JOHN ATKINSON GRIMSHAW

     1836 - Leeds - 1893

     

    The Quiet of the Lake, Roundhay Park

     

    Signed and dated, lower left: Atkinson Grimshaw 1870+

    Oil on card: 8 ⅞ x 13 ¾ in / 22.5 x 34.9 cm

    Frame Size: 15½ x 20¼ in / 39.4 x 51.4 cm

     

    Painted circa 1870

     

    Provenance:

    Private Collection, UK

     

    Roundhay Park, three miles north of the centre of Leeds, is one of the biggest city parks in Europe, encompassing over seven hundred acres of rolling parkland, lakes, woodland and gardens. Roundhay was originally a medieval hunting park granted to Ilbert De Lacy by William the Conqueror in return for his loyal support during his military campaigns (see S Burt, An illustrated History of Roundhay Park, Steven Burt, Leeds, 2000, p. 3). At the start of the nineteenth century, the estate was purchased by shipping magnate and stockbroker, Thomas Nicholson, who developed the natural features of the park into an impressive country estate complete with ravine, gorge, top lake, landscaped gardens, woodland walkways and waterfalls.  In 1811 he commissioned John Clarke to design a mansion, completed in 1826 in Greek Revival style. The mock castle, known as a folly, was built in 1812 by George Nettleton in the form of a medieval gateway (Grimshaw also painted the park from the ivy-covered battlements, using the Romantic association of the ruins to inspire a meditation on the past). Perhaps the most impressive feature was the thirty-three acre lower lake constructed in two years by soldiers who had returned from the recent Napoleonic wars, appropriately named ‘Waterloo Lake’.

     

    In 1871 a family death and inheritance dispute led to the Court of Chancery issuing a decree empowering lawyers to sell the park, which was bought the same year by Sir John Barran, Mayor of Leeds, for the city’s people. On 20th September 1872 Prince Arthur officially opened Roundhay Estate as a public park. Grimshaw painted several views of Roundhay, initially because its new status was in contention. As the park was outside the borough boundaries, an Act of Parliament was necessary for the Corporation of Leeds to purchase the estate. On 19th April 1872, The Leeds Mercury described a commission given to Grimshaw to paint three views of the park to illustrate its splendour and extent to the Parliamentary committee in support of the Leeds Improvement Bill.

     

    Whistler is said to have acknowledged Grimshaw as the “inventor of the ‘Nocturne’’’ therefore the diurnal setting of The Quiet of the Lake, Roundhay Park is unique and telling of Grimshaw’s affection for Roundhay Park.[1] This is one of Grimshaw’s earliest depictions of Roundhay. The three works that Grimshaw created for his commission were all night scenes and showed a certain aspect of the park that not many people would have normally seen. Perhaps it was the secluded beauty of the park, that before had been private and out of bounds, that interested Grimshaw. As a local artist he was given the opportunity to sketch and paint the park before it became a public space and while it still remained sheltered from large amounts of people. The Quiet of the Lake, Roundhay Park celebrates the serenity of nature Grimshaw found at Roundhay. As the multitude of leaves and delicate branches blur the lakeside with a tender softness, the open water of the lake is illuminated by the warm sunlight and a romantic view of the park is created. It is both an open and welcoming painting, with the trees standing in full leaf and the sunlight glowing in the afternoon haze. Grimshaw continued to depict the park throughout his career and remained deeply interested in the location.

     

    Roundhay Park remains one of the most popular attractions in Leeds today and is still a public park. The Friends of Roundhay Park are a charitable organisation that was formed in 1994 by local Leeds residents, they help to both protect the wildlife in the park and keep its nature unspoiled.

     

    We are grateful to Eveleigh Bradford and the Friends of Roundhay Park, for their assistance with the cataloguing of this work.

     

     

    John Atkinson Grimshaw, Tree Shadow on the Park Wall, Roundhay, Leeds, 1872

    Oil on wood: 52.7 x 45.1 cm

    Leeds Art Gallery, Leeds Museums and Galleries

     

     

     

     

    JOHN ATKINSON GRIMSHAW

    1836 - Leeds - 1893

     

    John Atkinson Grimshaw was a Victorian artist who became famous for his sombre views of the dockyards and his nocturnal scenes of urban lanes with leafless trees silhouetted against the moonlight sky. During his later life, he became a close friend of James McNeill Whistler who admired his work and admitted: ‘I considered myself the inventor of nocturnes until I saw Grimmy’s moonlight picture.’

     

    Born in Leeds, the son of an ex-policeman, Grimshaw first took up painting while he was employed as a clerk for the Great Northern Railway. He married his cousin Frances Theodosia Hubbarde in 1858 and by 1861; he had abandoned his job in order to devote all his time to becoming an artist. In his early work, John Atkinson Grimshaw was influenced by John Ruskin’s creed of ‘truth to nature’ and adopted the detailed Pre-Raphaelite technique of the Leeds painter, John William Inchbold. He was also fascinated by the relatively new art of photography and may have used a camera obscura in developing his compositions. 

     

    Towards 1865, he renounced this painting style. He painted many urban scenes in which moonlight and shadows were the most striking features. The towns and docks that he painted most frequently were Glasgow, Liverpool, Leeds, Scarborough, Whitby and London. These works have become his best known though he also painted landscapes, portraits, interior scenes, fairy pictures and neo-classical subjects. Grimshaw painted mostly for private patrons. He only exhibited five works at the Royal Academy between 1874 and 1876.

     

    By 1870, Grimshaw had become successful enough to move to Knostrop Old Hall, a seventeenth century mansion about two miles from the centre of Leeds, which featured in many of his paintings. He rented another home near Scarborough which he called ‘The Castle by the Sea’, towards 1876. Grimshaw suffered a serious financial disaster in 1879 and had to leave his house at Scarborough. He moved to London and rented a studio in Chelsea, leaving his family at Knostrop. He returned to Knostrop, where he died in 1893.  Several of his children, Arthur Grimshaw (1864-1913), Louis H Grimshaw (1870-1944), Wilfred Grimshaw (1871-1937) and Elaine Grimshaw (1877-1970), became painters.

     

    The work of Grimshaw is represented in the Bradford City Art Gallery, the Shipley Art Gallery, Gateshead, the Gloucester Museum and Art Gallery, the Bankfield Museum, Halifax, the Harrogate Museums and Art Gallery, the Ferens Art Gallery, Kingston-upon-Hull, the Huddersfield Art Gallery, Kirklees Metropolitan Council, the Harris Art Gallery, Preston, the Leeds City Art Gallery, the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, the Guildhall Art Gallery and the Tate Gallery, London, the Scarborough Art Gallery, the Wakefield Art Gallery and Museums, the Pannett Gallery, Whitby, the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Brest, France, the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut, the Nelson-Atkins Gallery, Kansas City, Missouri, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, Minnesota, the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut, the Museum of Art, New Orleans, Louisiana, the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Rhode Island in the United States, the Shepparton Art Centre, Welsford, Victoria, Australia and the King George VI Art Gallery, Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

     

    [1] David Bromfield, Atkinson Grimshaw 1836-93, (The Scholar Press, West Yorkshire, 1979), p.13

  • John Atkinson Grimshaw - Yew Court, Scalby
    John Atkinson Grimshaw Yew Court, Scalby Signed and dated 1877+
    Oil on board
    14 1/8 x 20 1/8 in
    35.9 x 51.1 cm
    Full details

    BM 158

     

    JOHN ATKINSON GRIMSHAW

     1836 - Leeds - 1893

     

    Yew Court, Scalby

     

    Signed and dated lower right: 1877+/Atkinson Grimshaw;

    signed, dated and inscribed “Yew Court”/Scalby/Atkinson Grimshaw/1877 on the reverse

    Oil on board: 14 ⅛ x 20 ⅛ in / 35.9 x 51.1 cm

    Frame size: 23 x 28 ¾ in / 58.4 x 73 cm

     

    Provenance:

    Private collection, North Yorkshire, then by descent

     

    Literature:

    Alexander Robertson, Atkinson Grimshaw, Phaidon, London, 1988 (reprinted 2000), p. 62

    Jane Sellars (ed.), Atkinson Grimshaw, Painter of Moonlight, exhibition catalogue, The Mercer Art Gallery, Harrogate in association with The Guildhall Art Gallery, City of London, 2011, p. 22

     

     

    John Atkinson Grimshaw first painted Scarborough in 1871, before he and his family settled in the Spa town around 1874, renting a house on the sea-front which he called ‘Castle by the sea’. Alexander Robertson writes of the artist’s second home: ‘…it was to be a place of entertainment, just as Knostrop Hall was in Leeds; according to his daughter Enid’s recollections, George du Maurier, Ellen Terry and J. L. Toole were all guests there.’[1]

    Castle by the Sea was owned by Thomas Jarvis, a wealthy brewer who lived nearby at The Towers and who would become Grimshaw’s second most important patron. Grimshaw painted The Old Gates, Yew Court, Scalby, near Scarborough (private collection), for him in 1874. Writing of the artist’s time in Scarborough, Robertson reveals that the artist ‘…kept a coach and pair so he could visit the surrounding countryside along the coast to Whitby and inland to Forge Valley and Scalby’,[2] which is three miles north-west of Scarborough.

     

    Yew Court, named after its distinctive row of trees, was obviously a favourite subject for the artist, which he painted several times. A larger version of the present work, painted two years earlier, is in the collection of Scarborough Art Gallery and also depicts the house from Station Road with the High Street façade lit by moonlight. Grimshaw painted a young woman admiring flowers in the garden at Yew Court in The Rector’s Garden, Queen of the Lilies, 1877 (Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Preston).

     

    These peaceful, poetic works of Scarborough’s suburban streets and gardens are distinct from the dramatic events Grimshaw recorded in ‘Burning Off’, a fishing boat at Scarborough, 1877, Sic Transit Gloria Mundi, The Burning of the Spa Saloon, Scarborough, 1876, both at Scarborough Art Gallery and In Peril, 1879 at Leeds Art Gallery.

     

     

     

     

    Yew Court, Scalby, near Scarborough, 1875

    Oil on board: 46 x 72 cm

    Scarborough Art Gallery

     

     

    John Atkinson Grimshaw was a Victorian artist who became famous for his sombre views of the dockyards and his nocturnal scenes of urban lanes with leafless trees silhouetted against the moonlight sky.  During his later life, he became a close friend of James McNeill Whistler who admired his work and admitted: ‘I considered myself the inventor of nocturnes until I saw Grimmy’s moonlight picture.’

     

    Born in Leeds, the son of an ex-policeman, Grimshaw first took up painting while he was employed as a clerk for the Great Northern Railway.  He married his cousin Frances Theodosia Hubbarde in 1858 and by 1861, he had abandoned his job in order to devote all his time to becoming an artist.  In his early work, John Atkinson Grimshaw was influenced by John Ruskin’s creed of ‘truth to nature’ and adopted the detailed Pre-Raphaelite technique of the Leeds painter, John William Inchbold.  He was also fascinated by the relatively new art of photography and may have used a camera obscura in developing his compositions. 

     

    Towards 1865, he renounced this painting style.  He painted many urban scenes in which moonlight and shadows were the most striking features.  The towns and docks that he painted most frequently were Glasgow Liverpool. Leeds, Scarborough, Whitby and London.  These works have become his best known though he also painted landscapes, portraits, interior scenes, fairy pictures and neo-classical subjects.  Grimshaw painted mostly for private patrons.  He only exhibited five works at the Royal Academy between 1874 and 1876.

     

    By 1870, Grimshaw had become successful enough to move to Knostrop Old Hall, a seventeenth century mansion about two miles from the centre of Leeds, which featured in many of his paintings.   He rented another home near Scarborough which he called ‘The Castle by the Sea’, towards 1876.  Grimshaw suffered a serious financial disaster in 1879 and had to leave his house at Scarborough.  He moved to London and rented a studio in Chelsea, leaving his family at Knostrop.  He returned to Knostrop, where he died in 1893.  Several of his children, Arthur Grimshaw (1864-1913), Louis H Grimshaw (1870-1944), Wilfred Grimshaw (1871-1937) and Elaine Grimshaw (1877-1970), became painters.

     

     

     

    The work of Grimshaw is represented in the Bradford City Art Gallery, the Shipley Art Gallery, Gateshead, the Gloucester Museum and Art Gallery, the Bankfield Museum, Halifax, the Harrogate Museums and Art Gallery, the Ferens Art Gallery, Kingston-upon-Hull, the Huddersfield Art Gallery, Kirklees Metropolitan Council, the Harris Art Gallery, Preston, the Leeds City Art Gallery, the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, the Guildhall Art Gallery and the Tate Gallery, London, the Scarborough Art Gallery, the Wakefield Art Gallery and Museums, the Pannett Gallery, Whitby, the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Brest, France, the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut, the Nelson-Atkins Gallery, Kansas City, Missouri, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, Minnesota, the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut, the Museum of Art, New Orleans, Louisiana, the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Rhode Island in the United States, the Shepparton Art Centre, Welsford, Victoria, Australia and the King George VI Art Gallery, Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

     

    [1] Alexander Robertson, Atkinson Grimshaw, op. cit., p. 62.

    [2] Alexander Robertson, ‘Atkinson Grimshaw: Life and Work’, Atkinson Grimshaw, Painter of Moonlight, op. cit., p. 15.

  • John Atkinson Grimshaw - Glasgow Lights
    John Atkinson Grimshaw Glasgow Lights Signed and dated T.17.92
    Oil on canvas
    12 x 18 in
    30.5 x 45.7 cm
    Full details

     

    BM 113

     

    JOHN ATKINSON GRIMSHAW

     1836 - Leeds - 1893

     

    Glasgow Lights

     

    Signed and dated lower right: T.17.92 / Atkinson Grimshaw;

    Signed, dated and inscribed on the reverse: Glasgow lights T.17.92 / Atkinson Grimshaw

    Oil on canvas: 12 x 18 in / 30.5 x 45.7 cm

    Frame size: 19 ¾ x 25 ¾ in / 50.2 x 65.4 cm

     

    Provenance:

    W.H. Patterson, London

    Richard Green, London, 1968 [E 661]

    Lord & Lady Soames, acquired from the above in 1968

     

     

    After Liverpool, Glasgow was the most popular setting for Grimshaw’s nocturnal dock scenes.  From 1870 onwards the demand for his moonlight representations of northern industrial towns rapidly increased as the new middle-class industrialists sought to become patrons of contemporary art and simultaneously validate their own profession. Confirming the artist’s love of maritime scenes, Grimshaw’s dock views may have been influenced by J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851) and J.A.M. Whistler (1834-1903), who credited the invention of nocturnes to Grimshaw.  Glasgow Lights is a particularly fine and highly detailed example of this Scottish scene and contains all the characteristics of a successful Grimshaw nocturne; the flickering street lights which highlight wet patches of pavement, a horse-drawn coach travelling down the street and the soft lines of ships’ masts silhouetted against the night sky.

     

    Though a relatively small painting, Grimshaw achieves an incredible sense of depth in this exceptional work, the vast amount of detail, from items in the shop windows to the gritty yet reflective road, rendered with an extremely fine brush, receding with consummate skill into the hazy distance. Grimshaw orchestrates a superb contrast between the bright, inviting lights of the meticulous shop fronts before which the glamorous figures promenade, with the more graphic definition of the mist-covered dock buildings and ships masts along the river Clyde.

     

    John Atkinson Grimshaw was a Victorian artist who became famous for his sombre views of the dockyards and his nocturnal scenes of urban lanes with leafless trees silhouetted against the moonlight sky.  During his later life, he became a close friend of James McNeill Whistler who admired his work and admitted: ‘I considered myself the inventor of nocturnes until I saw Grimmy’s moonlight picture.’

     

     

    JOHN ATKINSON GRIMSHAW

     1836 - Leeds - 1893

     

    Born in Leeds, the son of an ex-policeman, Grimshaw first took up painting while he was employed as a clerk for the Great Northern Railway.  He married his cousin Frances Theodosia Hubbarde in 1858 and by 1861, he had abandoned his job in order to devote all his time to becoming an artist.  In his early work, John Atkinson Grimshaw was influenced by John Ruskin’s creed of ‘truth to nature’ and adopted the detailed Pre-Raphaelite technique of the Leeds painter, John William Inchbold.  He was also fascinated by the relatively new art of photography and may have used a camera obscura in developing his compositions. 

     

    Towards 1865, he renounced this painting style.  He painted many urban scenes in which moonlight and shadows were the most striking features.  The towns and docks that he painted most frequently were Glasgow Liverpool. Leeds, Scarborough, Whitby and London.  These works have become his best known though he also painted landscapes, portraits, interior scenes, fairy pictures and neo-classical subjects.  Grimshaw painted mostly for private patrons.  He only exhibited five works at the Royal Academy between 1874 and 1876.

     

    By 1870, Grimshaw had become successful enough to move to Knostrop Old Hall, a seventeenth century mansion about two miles from the centre of Leeds, which featured in many of his paintings.   He rented another home near Scarborough which he called ‘The Castle by the Sea’, towards 1876.  Grimshaw suffered a serious financial disaster in 1879 and had to leave his house at Scarborough.  He moved to London and rented a studio in Chelsea, leaving his family at Knostrop.  He returned to Knostrop, where he died in 1893.  Several of his children, Arthur Grimshaw (1864-1913), Louis H Grimshaw (1870-1944), Wilfred Grimshaw (1871-1937) and Elaine Grimshaw (1877-1970), became painters.

     

    The work of Grimshaw is represented in the Bradford City Art Gallery, the Shipley Art Gallery, Gateshead, the Gloucester Museum and Art Gallery, the Bankfield Museum, Halifax, the Harrogate Museums and Art Gallery, the Ferens Art Gallery, Kingston-upon-Hull, the Huddersfield Art Gallery, Kirklees Metropolitan Council, the Harris Art Gallery, Preston, the Leeds City Art Gallery, the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, the Guildhall Art Gallery and the Tate Gallery, London, the Scarborough Art Gallery, the Wakefield Art Gallery and Museums, the Pannett Gallery, Whitby, the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Brest, France, the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut, the Nelson-Atkins Gallery, Kansas City, Missouri, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, Minnesota, the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut, the Museum of Art, New Orleans, Louisiana, the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Rhode Island in the United States, the Shepparton Art Centre, Welsford, Victoria, Australia and the King George VI Art Gallery, Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

John Atkinson Grimshaw was a Victorian artist who became famous for his sombre views of the dockyards and his nocturnal scenes of urban lanes with leafless trees silhouetted against the moonlight sky. During his later life, he became a close friend of James McNeill Whistler who admired his work and admitted: ‘I considered myself the inventor of nocturnes until I saw Grimmy’s moonlight picture.’


Born in Leeds, the son of an ex-policeman, Grimshaw first took up painting while he was employed as a clerk for the Great Northern Railway. He married his cousin Frances Theodosia Hubbarde in 1858 and by 1861, he had abandoned his job in order to devote all his time to becoming an artist. In his early work, John Atkinson Grimshaw was influenced by John Ruskin’s creed of ‘truth to nature’ and adopted the detailed Pre-Raphaelite technique of the Leeds painter, John William Inchbold. Grimshaw was also fascinated by the relatively new art of photography and may have used a camera obscura in developing his compositions. Towards 1865, he renounced this painting style. Grimshaw painted many urban scenes in which moonlight and shadows were the most striking features. The towns and docks that he painted most frequently were Glasgow, Liverpool, Leeds, Scarborough, Whitby and London. These works have become Grimshaw’s best known though he also painted landscapes, portraits, interior scenes, fairy pictures and neo-classical subjects. Grimshaw painted mostly for private patrons. He only exhibited five works at the Royal Academy between 1874 and 1876.


By 1870, Grimshaw had become successful enough to move to Knostrop Old Hall, a seventeenth century mansion about two miles from the centre of Leeds, which featured in many of his paintings. He rented another home near Scarborough which he called ‘The Castle by the Sea’, towards 1876. Grimshaw suffered a serious financial disaster in 1879 and had to leave his house at Scarborough. He moved to London and rented a studio in Chelsea, leaving his family at Knostrop. He returned to Knostrop, where he died in 1893. Several of his children, Arthur Grimshaw (1864-1913), Louis H Grimshaw (1870-1944), Wilfred Grimshaw (1871-1937) and Elaine Grimshaw (1877-1970), became painters.


The work of John AtkinsonGrimshaw is represented in the Bradford City Art Gallery, the Shipley Art Gallery, Gateshead, the Gloucester Museum and Art Gallery, the Bankfield Museum, Halifax, the Harrogate Museums and Art Gallery, the Ferens Art Gallery, Kingston-upon-Hull, the Huddersfield Art Gallery, Kirklees Metropolitan Council, the Harris Art Gallery, Preston, the Leeds City Art Gallery, the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, the Guildhall Art Gallery and the Tate Gallery, London, the Scarborough Art Gallery, the Wakefield Art Gallery and Museums, the Pannett Gallery, Whitby, the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Brest, France, the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut, the Nelson-Atkins Gallery, Kansas City, Missouri, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, Minnesota, the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut, the Museum of Art, New Orleans, Louisiana, the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Rhode Island in the United States, the Shepparton Art Centre, Welsford, Victoria, Australia and the King George VI Art Gallery, Port Elizabeth, South Africa.


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