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John Atkinson Grimshaw - Beechwood

John Atkinson Grimshaw


Oil on board: 16(h) x 20.5(w) in / 40.6(h) x 52.1(w) cm
Signed and dated lower left: Atkinson Grimshaw / 1867+

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1836 - Leeds - 1893

Ref: BS 270





Signed and dated lower left: Atkinson Grimshaw / 1867+

Oil on board: 16 x 20 ½ in / 40.6 x 52.1 cm

Frame size: 25 x 30 in / 63.5 x 76.2 cm





Alexander Hassé Gallery, Leeds

Private collection

Christie’s London, 16th March 1973, lot 47;

private collection, New York, acquired from the above, then by descent

Richard Green, London



This haunting, elegiac image demonstrates a sensitivity to nature and attention to detail associated with Grimshaw’s early Pre-Raphaelite manner, influenced by the work of Leeds artist, John William Inchbold (1830-1888). Grimshaw admired and emulated Inchbold’s painstaking method and exquisite finish, here describing each fallen leaf interlaced with ground ivy, brambles and bindweed, the texture of lichen and moss on bark and brick, while maintaining overall balance across the surface of the painting. Championing Ruskin’s doctrine of ‘truth to nature’ with as much description as possible, Grimshaw’s ethereal landscape offers an intricate and delicately observed account of natural scenery at the bounds of a beautiful beech wood.


Even at this early stage, the artist favoured autumn scenes for their poetry, patterns and rich palette, as well as a love of the straight, slim trunks and spreading branches of beech trees. In this exceptional work, thin bands of dense apricot cloud strafe the sky, described with pastel-like softness, with glimpses of sepia and violet beyond, a final burst of the glories of the day. On the misty horizon, beyond a small, thatched cottage, distant trees are delicately defined in a tracery of lilac-grey. The last rays of the setting sun suddenly illuminate a path by a dark, sinuous stream, as well as a luminous child and her dog, mesmerised, as we are, by the astonishing effects of nature. The gorgeous ground tapestry of russet, gold and amber leaves reflects the intense twilight tonality, denoting both the splendour of the season and approaching sunset.











John Atkinson Grimshaw

Autumn glory: The old mill, 1869

Oil on canvas: 62.2 x 87.6 cm

Leeds Art Gallery






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 moonlit sky. During his later life, he became a close friend of James McNeill Whistler who admired his work and admitted: ‘I thought I had invented the Nocturne, until I saw Grimmy’s moonlights’.


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, 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 his best known though he also painted landscapes, portraits, interior scenes, fairy pictures and neo-classical subjects. Grimshaw painted mostly for private patrons. He exhibited five works at the Royal Academy in 1874, 1880, 1885 and 1886. He also exhibited at Sir Coutts Lindsay’s Grosvenor Gallery in 1885.


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 from 1885-87 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 (1868-1913), Louis Grimshaw (1870-1944), Wilfred Grimshaw (1871-1937) and Elaine Grimshaw (1877-1970), became painters.


The work of John Atkinson 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 Tate Britain, 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.

Other Works By
John Atkinson Grimshaw:

John Atkinson Grimshaw - Hampstead Hill, looking down Heath Street John Atkinson Grimshaw - The trysting tree John Atkinson Grimshaw - A moonlit country road


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