Many of us spend time daydreaming, lots of “what ifs” flit through our heads and our hearts. Imagine you work as a clerk for a railroad, but you know you are destined for something else. You are 24, living in a manufacturing town, and already have a growing family; would you take the leap to follow this dream? Luckily for us, and in spite of having no formal training, John Atkinson Grimshaw felt the pull towards the art world and followed it.
The year is 1861 and Grimshaw’s first concerted forays into the art world are cautious and meticulous. The delicate early paintings serve as reminders that the artist is taking a huge risk, a risk that would make anyone at least a little hesitant. Drawing inspiration from the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and their battle cry of “truth to nature”, however, Grimshaw soon begins to develop his own unmistakable style.
By the late 1860s Grimshaw had firmly established the style and subject matter that led James McNeill Whistler to remark: “I considered myself the inventor of nocturnes until I saw Grimmy’s moonlit pictures” This style incorporates tones and luminous qualities that have gone unmatched by other artists.
Grimshaw’s atmospheric works tend to feature a large expanse of sky with precise consideration to how light reflects off other elements in the scene, often pools of water or crisp autumn leaves. Another reoccurring theme in the artist’s oeuvre is the lone figure along a path. This evocative combination of evening and solitude has the effect of producing an overwhelming sense of nostalgia in the viewer.
Moody and patiently crafted, John Atkinson Grimshaw’s works have made him a favorite among discerning collectors. Whistler’s ode to Grimshaw’s prowess is certainly accurate; you may search far and wide, but simply put, no other artist can capture the passing of the evening sky like Grimshaw.