John Atkinson Grimshaw 1865-1925
A Woman on a Path by a Cottage 1882
Oil on panel 14 x 18 inches (35.6 x 45.7 cm)
Signed 'Atkinson Grimshaw 1882' b.r. and inscribed on reverse
Richard Green; M.S. Rau, New Orleans; Private Collection.
'I considered myself the inventor of nocturnes until I saw Grimmy’s moonlight pictures.'
- James McNeill Whistler
Grimshaw's ability to render nocturnal scenes with a dreamy incandescence earned him immense praise and acclaim during the 1870s. Winding roads lit only by the soft glow of the moon through leafless trees typify his work, and these remarkable scenes have been highly sought after by collectors. In this eery, yet tranquil composition, a woman walks along a meandering path, guided only by the light of the moon and the glow of a single lantern. Grimshaw draws us into this mysterious scene with the curving pathway, which winds into and out of the composition again before reaching the shadow-strewn home in the distance. Influenced by the romantic works of Tennyson, Grimshaw would reinvent and perfect these nocturnal scenes throughout the latter part of his career.
Born in Leeds, the son of an ex-policeman, Grimshaw began painting while he was employed as a clerk for the Great Northern Railway. He married his cousin Frances Theodosia Hubbarde in 1858 and by 1861, he abandoned his job in order to devote all his time to becoming an artist. In his early work, Grimshaw was influenced by John Ruskin’s creed of ‘truth to nature’ and adopted the detailed Pre-Raphaelite technique of the Leeds Pre-Raphaelite painter, John William Inchbold. He 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. He 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 his best known though he also painted landscapes, portraits, interior scenes, fairy pictures and neo-classical subjects. Grimshaw painted mostly for private patrons. He exhibited five works at the Royal Academy between 1874 and 1876.
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