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John Atkinson Grimshaw - Hampstead Hill, looking down Heath Street

John Atkinson Grimshaw

Hampstead Hill, looking down Heath Street

Oil on canvas: 18 x 24 (in) / 45.7 x 61 (cm)
Signed and dated lower right: Atkinson Grimshaw 1882; signed, dated and inscribed on the original reverse: Hampstead Hill / Atkinson Grimshaw / 1882

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1836 - Leeds - 1893

Ref: CL 3693


Hampstead Hill, looking down Heath Street



Signed and dated lower right: Atkinson Grimshaw 1882;

signed, dated and inscribed on the original reverse:

Hampstead Hill / Atkinson Grimshaw / 1882

Oil on canvas: 18 x 24 in / 45.7 x 61 cm

Frame size: 27 x 33 in / 68.6 x 83.8 cm




Private collection, Leeds

Phillips, Leeds, 6th December 1995, lot 174;

Richard Green, London, acquired from the above;

private collection, UK, 1996, acquired from the above

Christie’s London, 22nd November 2006, lot 209;

Richard Green, London, acquired from the above;

private collection, UK, 2007, acquired from the above;

Private collection, UK



London, Museum of London, Sherlock Holmes: the Man Who Never Lived and Will Never Die, 17th October 2014-12th April 2015, illus. in colour p.149



Painted at the height of his powers in 1882, this iconic panorama combines Grimshaw’s favourite motifs, a rain drenched, moonlit lane, with the growing fashionableness of a Heath Street, Hampstead address. To date six paintings by Grimshaw of Heath Street have emerged, including three in public collections at the Victoria Gallery & Museum, Liverpool, the Department of the Environment and Tate Britain, London. The upper part of Heath Street was one of the original lanes leading into the village of Hampstead. In the Queen Anne period it was extended through the village onto the Heath and beyond. Heath Street was lengthened in the 1887 to 1889 Hampstead Town Improvements to link it with the new Fitzjohn’s Avenue. Heath Street was home to a celebrated literary meeting place, the Upper Flask Tavern. The famous Kit Kat Club, named after a pastry cook called Christopher Katt, met for twenty years in the homes of its founder Jacob Tonson, Katt and the Upper Flask Tavern. Its members included the leading figures of artistic and Whig circles in 18th century London including the Duke of Marlborough, Sir Robert Walpole, Sir John Vanbrugh, Joseph Addison, Sir Richard Steele, the playwright William Congreve and the painter Sir Godfrey Kneller. Samuel Richardson set part of his famous novel Clarissa in the Upper Flask Tavern. Heath Street has always been at the heart of Hampstead Village’s entertainments. Other famous landmarks include the Drill Hall where, when renamed as the Everyman Theatre, Noel Coward first performed Vortex in 1919.


John Constable (1776-1837) painted Hampstead in the early nineteenth century, initially renting a cottage for the health of his wife and children from 1819 to 1834. A semi-rural village at the time, Hampstead united town and county life, connected to central London by a regular coach service, which Constable depicted in London from Hampstead Heath (Manchester Art Gallery). Constable also exhibited a moonlit painting of Hampstead at the Royal Academy in 1832 (286). Ford Maddox Brown (1821-1893) moved to Hampstead in 1852 and painted two important paintings there at the culmination of his Pre-Raphaelite period: An English autumn afternoon, 1853 and Work, 1852-65. The latter, and its replica (now in Birmingham and Manchester Art Galleries), were painted over the course of fifteen years and depict The Mount with Heath Street on the right looking north with great topographical accuracy. It seems likely that Grimshaw would have seen Work, its completion was commissioned by stockbroker and collector, Thomas Plint of Leeds and it was exhibited there in 1868 (see Mary Bennett, Ford Maddox Brown, A Catalogue Raisonné, volume 1, Yale University Press, 2010, pp.136, 148). Bennett writes that The Mount is much the same as it appears in Brown’s study of Heath Street, though ‘higher up the street is now largely shops and the railings on The Mount are different’ (ibid., p.148). Though Grimshaw’s view looks south down Heath Street towards London and what might be the spires of Heath Street Baptist Church or the tower of the old fire station, it seems likely that the railings to the right also depict those rising up The Mount, albeit with some artistic licence.


J. A. Grimshaw, View of Heath Street by night, 1882

Oil on board: 14 ½ x 21 1/8 in / 36.8 x 53.7 cm




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 (1868-1913), Louis 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.



Other Works By
John Atkinson Grimshaw:

John Atkinson Grimshaw - The trysting tree John Atkinson Grimshaw - A moonlit country road John Atkinson Grimshaw - Evening at Knostrop


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