John Atkinson Grimshaw's Famous Artworks
“Dulce Domum,” 1855
“Dame Autumn has a Mournful Face,” 1871
“The Heron’s Haunt,” 1874
“Nightfall on the Thames,” 1880
“On Hampstead Hill,” 1881
“Battersea Bridge,” 1885
John Atkinson Grimshaw was an artist in the Victorian era, well known for his nocturnal cityscapes and landscapes. Most of his later works
were signed Atkinson Grimshaw, though he also used “J.A.G.,”“J.A. Grimshaw,” and his full name.
John Atkinson Grimshaw's Early Life
Atkinson Grimshaw was born in Leeds on September 6, 1836. He was employed with the Great Northern Railway as a clerk. At this time, he also started painting, and in 1861, gave up his job to start painting full time. His first exhibition was held in 1862 with the support of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society. He was deeply influenced by John Ruskin and the technique of John William Inchbold in his early work, which primarily included scenes of nature—paintings of birds, fruit, and blossoms. Another influence was the new technology of photography, which at the time was gaining popularity.
John Atkinson Grimshaw's Career
By 1865 though, Grimshaw abandoned his early style and began experimenting with cityscapes, particularly night scenes, in which he could play with the effects of moonlight and shadow. The Pre-Raphaelites had a significant impact on his work. He attempted, as per their style, to be true to the color, lighting, and other details of his subjects. His paintings were therefore strikingly atmospheric and filled with natural lighting, and sharp in focus.
Grimshaw rarely showed his work
at the Royal Academy, painting mainly for private patrons. Achieving early success in the early 1870s, he could keep two homes: his primary residence, Knostrop Old Hall in Leeds, and one near Scarborough, which he called the “Castle by the Sea.” However, by 1879, after a serious financial setback, he gave up the Scarborough home. It was in the 1880s that he rented a studio in Chelsea, London, leaving his family in Knostrop. James Abbot McNeill Whistler, who had a studio close to Grimshaw’s and was himself known for his paintings of nocturnal scenes, acknowledged the latter’s mastery over his craft. While depicting towns and cities by the night, he chose to highlight beauty and mystery, focusing on gas lamps and wet streets, leaving out aspects like dirt, which were also a prominent part of industrial towns. In any case, his paintings often managed to convey a sense of the atmosphere, the damp air, and moisture, so realistically painted were they.
Though Grimshaw is best known for these atmospherics-laden paintings, he also produced cityscapes, portraits, and interiors, as well as neo-classical subjects.
John Atkinson Grimshaw's Later Life and Legacy
Grimshaw suffered from tuberculosis and died on October 13, 1893. He was 57, and unlike many other artists of his time, he did not leave behind much material in terms of writings and records for scholars to study his life by.
Grimshaw had several children of whom four — Arthur E. Grimshaw, Louis H. Grimshaw, Wilfred Grimshaw, and Elaine Grimshaw — became artists. You can buy John Atkinson Grimshaw's artworks online.
John Atkinson Grimshaw's Exhibitions
1862 - Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society
1862 - Museums/Collections
1979 - Leeds City Art Gallery
2011 - Mercer Art Gallery, Harrogate
John Atkinson Grimshaw's Museums/Collections
Tate Gallery, London
Ashmolean Museum at the University of Oxford
Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Preston
City of Gloucester Collections
Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid
“Atkinson Grimshaw,” by Alexander Robertson
“142 Color Paintings of John Atkinson Grimshaw – British Romantic Landscape Painter,” by Jacek Michalak
“John Atkinson Grimshaw,” by Nancy Davis