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The Dockside Liverpool at Night by John Atkinson Grimshaw

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The Dockside Liverpool at Night by John Atkinson Grimshaw

- Item No.

This ethereal painting by John Atkinson Grimshaw shows the dockside of Liverpool at night

Key Features

  • This ethereal painting by John Atkinson Grimshaw shows the dockside of Liverpool at night
  • Grimshaw became famous for his sombre views of dockyards and his nocturnal scenes of urban lanes
  • These series of paintings record the role of the sea port in the Victorian era
  • Grimshaw exhibited five works at the Royal Academy between 1874 and 1876
  • Signed Atkinson Grimshaw on lower right
  • Circa, 1886
  • Canvas: 12 1/2 high x 18 1/2 wide Framed: 16 1/2 high x 23 wide

Item Details

  • Width:
    C:18 1/2" F:23" Inches
  • Height:
    C:12 1/2" F:16 1/2" Inches
  • Period:
    19th Century
  • Origin:
    England/Ireland
  • Subject:
    Cityscapes
  • Artist:
    Grimshaw, John Atkinson
John Atkinson Grimshaw
1836 - 1893  British

The Dockside Liverpool at Night

 Signed "Atkinson Grimshaw" on lower right
Oil on canvas

This painting is featured in Nineteeth Century European Painting: From Baroque to Barbizon by Wiliam RauThis ethereal painting shows the dockside of Liverpool at night, a scene that was of particular fascination to the artist John Atkinson Grimshaw.  Painted in 1886, this haunting work employs a remarkable technique, emphasizing aspects of the harbour with detail and color and rendering other areas with strong line. This innovative perspective to a nocturne painting creates a breathtaking otherworldly scene where reality and imagination converge.  Buildings seem to fade in and out while the light from shop windows casts a ghostly glow that mirrors the spectral green orb in the center of the canvas. The result is a meticulously rendered evening scene, illuminated and glistening like a jewel.  Grimshaw's ability to lift his dark and what would ordinarily be melancholy nocturnal scenes into the realm of dreamy incandescent worlds is nothing short of fascinating and makes his works absolutely mesmerizing and highly desired by collectors.

Grimshaw became famous for his sombre views of dockyards and his nocturnal scenes of urban lanes with leafless trees silhouetted against the moonlight sky. His cityscapes capture the co-existing worlds of commerce and industry, idealizing the increasing industrialisation that dominated northern England in the late nineteenth century. These series of paintings, begun in the early 1880s, record the role of the sea port within Victorian life. The ordinarily grey and bleak, rainy city scene, often described in the novels of Charles Dickens, is transformed here into an elegant and mystical townscape. A golden light illuminates the shops, making them warm and inviting. The wet cobblestones glisten and shine. The omnibus, an important icon, in many of Grimshaw's urban landscapes, takes on a ghostly presence.

Grimshaw was tremendously influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites and adopted their precisely detailed style in his landscapes. During his later life, he became a close friend of James McNeill Whistler who admired his work and admitted: 'I considered myself the inventor of nocturnes until I saw Grimmy's moonlight picture.' Whistler's style influenced Grimshaw to move in the direction of a more ethereal presentation of light and atmosphere. This painitng is an outstanding example of both influences.

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 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 then 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.

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 he 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 became painters.

Circa 1886

Canvas:  12 1/2" high x 18 1/2" wide
Framed:  16 1/2" high x 23" wide

Select Artist's Exhibitions:
London, Richard Green, Exhibition of Victorian & Romantic Paintings, 23rd November 1995, no. 26

Select Artist's Museums:
Tate Gallery, London
Scarborough Art Gallery
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Brest
Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford
Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City
Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis
Yale Center for British Art, New Haven
New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans
Rhode Island School of Design, Providence

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Price: $495,000
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