Whitby by John Atkinson Grimshaw

  • This moonlit view of Whitby was composed by the Victorian artist John Atkinson Grimshaw
  • Moody and ethereal, this night painting shows the seaside town’s first swing bridge
  • The artist's nocturne paintings such as this exhibit innovative perspective and technical mastery
  • Get complete item description here
Item No. 31-4769

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John Atkinson Grimshaw
1836-1893 | British


Signed "Atkinson Grimshaw" (lower right)
Oil on canvas

This moody and ethereal night painting captures a moonlit view of Whitby Harbor's first swing bridge, a scene that was of particular fascination to the Victorian artist John Atkinson Grimshaw. The shadowy silhouettes of boats and masts echo the horizontal and vertical elements of the city’s architecture, though all are softened by the incandescent glow of the moonlight. Such urban views lit by the soft light of night have become synonymous with this remarkable painter, whose romantic aesthetics are among the most celebrated of the Victorian age.

Whitby was a favorite subject for Grimshaw, who built a house near the fishing port in the late 1870s. He was attracted to its distinctive skyline and atmospheric mood, and he painted many views of the town. Fishing became the principal maritime industry in Whitby following the slump in shipbuilding at the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, as the harbor was too small to accommodate the larger ships then being built. The railway brought tourism to Whitby, and like Scarborough, it became a seaside resort, inspiring writers such as Elizabeth Gaskell, Lewis Carroll and, most famously, Bram Stoker.

Born in Leeds to a former policeman, Grimshaw began painting while employed as a clerk for the Great Northern Railway. He married his cousin Frances Theodosia Hubbard in 1858, and by 1861 he abandoned his job in order to devote 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. By 1865, he turned to painting urban scenes in which moonlight and shadows were the most striking features, and it was for these works that he is best remembered. Examples of Grimshaw’s extraordinary painting can today be seen in galleries worldwide, including the Tate Gallery in London and the Leeds Museum.

Canvas: 20 3/4" high x 30 1/8" wide
Frame: 27 1/2" high x 37 5/8" wide
Whitby by John Atkinson Grimshaw
Maker: Grimshaw, John Atkinson
Period: 1816-1918
Origin: England
Type: Paintings
Depth: 1.5 Inches
Width: 37.63 Inches
Height: 27.5 Inches
Canvas Width: 30.125 Inches
Canvas Height: 20.75 Inches
Whitby by John Atkinson Grimshaw
John Atkinson Grimshaw: Painting Moonlight

John Atkinson Grimshaw’s haunting, evocative paintings of idyllic lanes, gas-lit streets and urban docksides are among the most popular works of the Victorian era. His “moonlights” are undoubtedly the finest compositions of th...

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