John Atkinson Grimshaw England

9-6-1836 Leeds, ENG – 10-13-1893 Leeds, ENG

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Grimshaw, John Atkinson

John Atkinson Grimshaw first began painting while working as a clerk for the Great Northern Railway. He encountered bitter opposition from his parents, but after his marriage he was able to devote himself full time to painting. Self-taught, Grimshaw started exhibiting in Leeds in the 1860's.

By 1870, he was successful enough to rent a 17th century mansion, perched on a cliff top, it has magnificent views of the bays. The move to the coast inspired much of the artist’s most attractive work.

In the 1870's he experimented with a looser technique and with classical subjects in the manner of Lawrence Alma-Tadema, historical subjects and contemporary ladies in the manner of Tissot, these last were particularly successful. But the real breakthrough at that time was the night-time scenes the 'moonlights' with which he is usually associated today. John Atkinson Grimshaw painted mostly for private art patrons, and exhibited only 5 works at the Royal Academy between 1874 and 1886 and one at the Grosvenor Gallery.

John Atkinson Grimshaw's style and subject matter changed little during his career; he strove constantly to perfect his own very individual vision. He was interested in photography, and sometimes used a camera obscura to project outlines on to oil canvas, enabling him to repeat compositions several times. Although he established no school, Grimshaw's oil paintings were forged and imitated in his lifetime.

The output of moonlights continued during the 1880's, particularly of street and dockside scenes, but there were also continuing experiments. He tried much less precise, almost naive, paintings, which reflected his friendship with that other nocturnal creature, Whistler, who, in a rare outbreak of generosity, had ceded to John Atkinson Grimshawpriority in the 'moonlight' oil painting genre.

Art Movement: Aestheticism
Influences: Pre-Raphaelites, James Tissot
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