Greenock Harbour at Night, 1893

by John Atkinson Grimshaw

P.O.A.

DIMENSIONS: (unframed) 12 x 18 inches (30.48 x 45.72 cm)
SIGNATURE: Signed and inscribed (lower right and verso)
MEDIUM: Oil on canvas

 

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    Catalogue No: 6454 Categories: , Tags: , , , , ,

    In this work the cobweb of the ships rigging is silhouetted against the darkened sky, and a horse drawn carriage makes its way along the wet cobbled road. On the right- hand side passers by peer into the windows of a row of shops, some of which are real Greenock shops, whilst others are fictitious enterprises created by Grimshaw. In the distance the area is immersed in fog adding a sense of atmosphere and intensity to the picture.

    It is significant that the painting is dated 1893, the year of the artists death, and for this reason it makes it one of his final works.

    Grimshaw 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 Grimshaw’s best known though he also painted landscapes, portraits, interior scenes, fairy pictures and neo-classical subjects.

    Provenance

    Private collection UK

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    Biography

    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. 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. Grimshaw 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.

    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 (1864-1913), Louis H Grimshaw (1870-1944), Wilfred Grimshaw (1871-1937) and Elaine Grimshaw (1877-1970), became painters.

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