The Crescent Moon

by John Atkinson Grimshaw

DIMENSIONS: (unframed) 10.00 x 12 in./25.40 x 30.48 cm
SIGNATURE: Signed lower right
MEDIUM: Oil on panel

Catalogue No: 3310 Categories: ,

This painting appears to be the last of a small number of oval shaped pictures produced by Grimshaw in his first decade as an artist. It also marks a significant move away from the brighter more sharply defined images of his early landscapes to a world of shadows and night-time mysteries. From the early 1870s and the renting of Knostrop Old Hall in Leeds Grimshaw began to imbue his art with a deep vein of poetry and romantic feelings. His love of the romantic poets became stronger and he seized upon their frequent depiction of the moon in their poetry. Shelley’s To The Moon being one example. In this painting we see a very simple homestead with two figures going about their work while increasing darkness envelops the scene. The crescent moon is just peaking over the crest of the mountain. The very simplicity of the composition lends itself to the mood of solitude, almost a Samuel Palmer-like intensity of feeling. A very powerful effect in such a small painting.

Provenance

Private Collection, United Kingdom;

Fine Art Society 1979

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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. 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. Grimshaw painted mostly for private patrons. He only exhibited five works at the Royal Academy between 1874 and 1876.

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.

Grimshaw painted mostly for private patrons. He only exhibited five works at the Royal Academy between 1874 and 1876.