Artist biography

English painter. He learnt from examples he saw in local art shops. Grimshaw gave up his work as a clerk on the railways to take up painting full-time in 1861. His first pictures were of dead birds, blossom and fruit studies. Grimshaw began to exhibit from 1862, and he showed five paintings in all at the Royal Academy of Arts, London. The culmination of this early period is Autumn Glory: The Old Mill (1869; Leeds, C.A.G.), in which all the detail of leaves, twigs, ivy and moss-covered stone is painstakingly shown. Moonlight scenes are Grimshaw's best-known subjects. This broader technique, often featuring the mysterious atmosphere of mist-laden horizons, was particularly appreciated by middle-class clients. Grimshaw's dock scenes, and the manor houses glimpsed down leafy, stone-walled suburban lanes, along which a single figure walks, were especially popular.

In the 1870s Grimshaw was at the peak of his success. He extended his subject-matter to include re-creations of ancient Greece and Rome, as well as producing paintings of fashionable modern women. Often he painted over photographs, and, it has been claimed, developed a technique of projecting images on to a canvas, which could then be painted. In his final years Grimshaw produced small riverscapes. During the last winter of his life he painted snow scenes. Today Grimshaw is seen as one of the minor Victorian masters, his place assured by his moonlights, evocative of Victorian life of the 1870s and 1880s.

Atkinson Grimshaw (exh. cat., ed. J. Abdy; London, Ferrers Gal., 1970)
G. R. Phillips: John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1836–1893 (Leeds, 1972)
Atkinson Grimshaw (exh. cat., ed. J. Abdy and C. Wood; London, Alexander Gal., 1976)
Atkinson Grimshaw (exh. cat., ed. A. Robertson; Leeds, C.A.G., 1979) [well illus., with crit. essay by D. Bromfield; 75 pls]
A. Robertson: Atkinson Grimshaw (Oxford, 1988)


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