Connect with us

DailyArtMagazine.com – Art History Stories

Britain At Twilight: John Atkinson Grimshaw’s Landscapes

John Atkinson Grimshaw, Scarborough Lights, 1877, Scarborough Art Gallery, Scarborough, UK

Artists' Stories

Britain At Twilight: John Atkinson Grimshaw’s Landscapes

John Atkinson Grimshaw (1836-1893) was a Victorian painter admired for his beautiful evening landscapes. British cities like London, Liverpool, and Leeds were his favorite subjects. Grimshaw’s landscapes are celebrated today, as they were in his own day, for their stunning use of atmospheric effects like twilight, fog, rain, and gaslight. They cast British cities, waterways, docks, and landscapes in the warm, lovely, and romantic light.

Grimshaw's landscapes Heath Street London

John Atkinson Grimshaw, London, View of Heath Street by Night, 1882, Tate Britain, London

Grimshaw had the ambition to paint from childhood, but his family discouraged him from pursuing it. Eventually, though, he left his job as a clerk to become a full-time artist anyway. Grimshaw was very prolific, and that was largely because he was almost always in debt. He was fortunate that there was a big market for his work, so he painted pictures as fast as possible to keep the money coming in.

Grimshaw's landscapes Scarborough

John Atkinson Grimshaw, Scarborough Lights, 1877, Scarborough Art Gallery, Scarborough, UK

The interesting thing is that he came up with a bunch of time and money-saving techniques to paint as quickly as possible, and some of these actually contributed to the style he’s so well loved for. For example, some of the atmospheric effects in Grimshaw’s landscapes may partially be the result of his using very thin layers of paint to save money. It’s also known that occasionally painted on top of photographs, which definitely saved time but isn’t really obvious in the finished works.

Grimshaw's landscapes Liverpool

John Atkinson Grimshaw, The Custom House, Liverpool, Looking North, date unknown, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, UK


James Abbott McNeill Whistler was very impressed by Grimshaw’s landscapes, saying I considered myself the inventor of nocturnes until I saw Grimmy’s moonlit pictures. While twilight clearly features in many of his paintings, other effects such as moonlight, rain, fog, mist, and gas lamps, equally contribute to their lovely mood. Grimshaw combined atmosphere with realistic detail to great result. Interestingly, he had no formal training, so he had to teach himself to create all these effects.

Grimshaw's landscapes Thames

John Atkinson Grimshaw, Thames Moonlight, 1880, Stanley and Audrey Burton Art Gallery, University of Leeds, UK

Grimshaw’s pictures are beautiful and romantic, even when they depict ordinary or less-than-glamorous subjects. They tend towards a slight tone of isolation that is somehow still inviting. The human presence in his works, when there’s one at all, is clearly secondary to the landscape or city. You rarely see a human face or personality in Grimshaw’s landscapes. I think that might be a big part of what makes his work so attractive to people. It gives a sense of timelessness that I don’t think would be as strong if the people were more prevalent. Personally, I find that in scenes like the one below, the places Grimshaw painted suddenly seem like places I’d like to be.

Grimshaw's landscapes Blackman Street

John Atkinson Grimshaw, Blackman Street, Borough, London, 1885, private collection

Find out more:


Alexandra believes that enjoying the art of the past is the closest she can get to time travel, only much safer. When she’s not being an art historian, she can usually be found ice skating and dancing. Visit her at ascholarlyskater.com.

Comments

More in Artists' Stories

  • Artist

    Vasily Vereshchagin – Journey through India

    By

    Vasily Vereshchagin was a notable Russian solider, artist and writer in the 19th century. He was an outspoken critic of war who reformed the genre of war paintings by dispensing with traditional conventions that glorified war. As a prominent member of the Russian intelligentsia, Vereshchagin used...

  • The Death of Cleopatra by Edmonia Lewis cover The Death of Cleopatra by Edmonia Lewis cover

    Artists' Stories

    The Fabulous Sculpture and Mysterious Life of Edmonia Lewis

    By

    Edmonia Lewis (c. 1844-1907) was quite a force of nature. She was an African-American and Native-American woman who became an internationally-respected sculptor in the prejudiced 19th century. Her life was fascinating, but it’s difficult to uncover. Every source tells a slightly different story. Few primary documents,...

  • 19th Century

    Jane Poupelet: Bronze, Paper and Commitment in WWI

    By

    Jane Poupelet was a French sculptress and illustrator most known for her involvement in World War I. There were not many female artists at the time so Jane Poupelet had to really stand out to succeed. She distinguished herself from others through the themes of her...

  • Artist

    Raphael – Renaissance Prince of Painters

    By

    Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino – better known as Raphael – is known for the harmony and clarity of form within his visually brilliant paintings. He was sometimes known as Il divino – the divine one – for his expert mastery of space and proportion. On the 500th...

  • 20th century

    Art for Climate Change: Emily Carr, Odds and Ends

    By

    Art has always had the power to communicate all kinds of emotions; some paintings convey a sense of peace and quiet, while others can make us feel upset or uncomfortable. The latter give us awareness about something that is wrong in our society, something that we...

To Top

Just to let you know, DailyArt Magazine’s website uses cookies to personalise content and adverts, to provide social media features and to analyse traffic. Read cookies policy