John Atkinson Grimshaw Artist Biography
John Atkinson Grimshaw
Leeds painter John Atkinson Grimshaw is best known for his enigmatic and enchanting moonlight scenes. He is seen as one of the Victorian masters, whose distincive paintings of English towns and dockyards are evocative of Victorian life in the late 19th century. John Atkinson Grimshaw was a self-taught artist who encountered bitter opposition to his artistic aspirations from his parents. In 1861, he gave up his work as a clerk on the railways to take up painting full-time. His first paintings were mostly still-lifes of dead birds, blossom and fruit studies, which he started to exhibit in Leeds in the 18's. These early paintings were influenced by the work of the Pre-Raphaelites, in particular Leeds-based landscape painter John William Inchbold. By 1870, Grimshaw was successful enough to rent a 17th century mansion, Knostrop Old Hall, and a house perched on a cliff top in Scarborough which he called Castle-by-the-Sea. The move to the coast inspired much of his artwork. Throughout his career he remained fascinated by the sea, docks and all things maritime. Grimshaw also travelled to Liverpool and London in search of inspiration and diversified into literary subjects. In the 1870s, Grimshaw was at the peak of his success. His technique and his favourite subjects, atmospheric mist-laden horizons, were particularly appreciated by his middle-class clients. His detailed dock scenes and his enigmatic manor houses nestled in the English countryside were especially popular. Grimshaw mostly painted for private patrons, but throughout his career he showed five paintings at the Royal Academy of Arts, London.It has been claimed that Grimshaw developed a technique of projecting images on to canvas, which could then be painted (camera obscura). It is known that he explored modern photographic developments and often painted over photographs. He would also experiment with his mediums, mixing sand and other ingredients with his paint to achieve the effects he wanted.ﾠGrimshaw extended his subject matter to include re-imaginations of ancient Greece and Rome, as well as portraits of fashionable women of the day. During his final years Grimshaw painted delicate small riverscapes and in the last winter of his life he painted a number of beautiful snow scenes. John Atkinson Grimshaw died of cancer at Knostrop Old Hall at the age of 57. Two of his sons, Arthur and Louis, were also oil painters.