John Atkinson Grimshaw (1836-1893): Moonlight, Wharfedale

John Atkinson Grimshaw (1836-1893): Moonlight, Wharfedale

8/4/2021, 2:09:20 PM
John Atkinson Grimshaw (1836-1893): Moonlight, Wharfedale, 1871, oil on card, 44.4 x 34.3 cm (17½ x 13½ in.), private collection 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 considered myself the inventor of nocturnes until I saw Grimmy's moonlight picture." Grimshaw's paintings depict the modern world, but manage to escape the depressing, dirty reality of the northern industrial towns. He was inspired by literary figures, particularly Lord Tennyson, by John Ruskin's "Truth to Nature" theories, and by Celtic and Classical legends, which imbued an atmosphere of bygone eras into his contemporary depictions. His paintings display visually the verbal descriptions found in 19th-century novels, with an abundance of texts dedicated to the night, such as Bleak House by Charles Dickens: "Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots, making a soft black drizzle, with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snowflakes-gone into mourning, one might imagine for the death of the sun... Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it flows among green aits and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping, and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city...".

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