Art Wednesday: John Atkinson Grimshaw

The lovers

Artist: John Atkinson Grimshaw (1836-1893)
Born: Leeds, United Kingdom
Part of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood - Painter of the Moonlight

According to the Tate Museum: "Grimshaw was famous for his night scenes, in particular for his views of the docks at Liverpool, Glasgow and Hull. Here he concentrates on the golden glow cast from the shop fronts through the fog, and reflected on the wet cobbles. The omnibus receding from the viewer down a perfectly straight street is a characteristic and effective device, which Grimshaw repeated many times in such works. Grimshaw was entirely self-taught, and had begun life as a railway clerk. He was much influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites, whose precisely detailed style he initially copied in his landscapes. He gradually moved towards a more ethereal evocation of light and atmosphere somewhat reminiscent of Whistler."

Grimshaw was born in Leeds in 1836. His father was a policeman and both parents were strict Baptists.  Some reports indicate that his mother did not approve of his painting and destroyed some of his earlier works. I am sure his mother wasn't happy when he left his employment as a railway clerk to become a full time painter. 

When Grimshaw died he left no letters or diaries (unlike many other artists) so very little is known about his private life and still remains a mystery to his thoughts and feelings about his works.  He died of cancer.

He married his cousin and named all his children after characters in Tennyson's poems.  Four of his children when on to be artists.
Nightfall on the Thames
Haunted house
All in the golden twilight

The Lady of Shallot
This was a favourite topic of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and they all painted the Lady from time to time, some more than others, here is Grimshaw's version.
A moonlight lane
This would have to be one of my favourite of Grimshaw paintings - I can just imagine walking down this lane with the sound of snow under my feet. It is almost photographic.
Boar Lane, Leeds
Leeds Bridge
Reflections on the Thames, Westminster
Silver moonlight
Blea Tarn, First Light
This painting is based on a photograph by Thomas Ogle of Penrith, who produced photographic views sold as souvenirs in Lake District shops.
Spirit of the Night
Victorian artists, in particular the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood were fond of painting fairies and many took their ideas from characters from Shakespeare's writings. The Victorian middle classes also like to buy these fairy paintings which increased their popularity.
Knostrop Cut, Leeds, Sunday Night
The painting above and below were completed in the last year of his life - still experimenting with colours.
 Snow and Mist: Caprice in Yellow Minor

The artist himself



  1. Did this man have depression? It is all SO gloomy! Why did they do that? Wasn't the world full of sun, love and laughter even then? =)

  2. Bets, very few artists painted the night so these were very unusua, therefore quite popularl. It was also the era of the gas light and that is what he is try to capture in the city scapes. I don't find these depressing at all, in a way they are very beautiful just as night can be.

  3. I think he was very talented at painting light in different ways from the normal artist. They are very somber, but they are also very effective. I prefer bright paintings most of the time, but I can definitely see the talent here! :)

  4. Beautiful! Thank you so much for introducing this artist to me. I think I have seen his work before.

    I don't think these are gloomy at all. AMAZING rather. So many times I have thought a moonlit night was pleasant and his paintings seem to have captured the peace and quiet of such nights.

  5. Love Leeds Bridge & the latter ones. Beautiful work.

  6. Mrs Santos - I also love the moonlight, there is something magical about it and these paintings have captured it so beautifully. I am glad you like them, so do I.


Post a Comment