The Grimshaws moved to Knostrop Hall, a Jacobean Manor House outside Leeds, in 1870. The move reflected his growing success as an artist and was a landmark in his career, giving him both social standing in the Leeds area and a congenially romantic environment; the house remained his home until his death twenty-three years later. It is highly likely that the present lot was painted there, as part of a series of domestic scenes influenced by Tissot that dated from around 1875, culminating in Dulce Domum (Lloyd Webber Collection) which was completed a decade later in 1885. All were set in either the house or the garden, and express his understandable pride in the idyllic background to his life and work he created. The other paintings in the series all date from 1875, the year before Dulce Domum was started, and two years before the present lot was painted. Summer and Spring (Robertson, op.cit., pls. 36 and 1) show the artist's wife Fanny dressed in eighteenth-century costume and standing in interiors full of 'aesthetic' bric-à-brac, with a glimpse of the garden through the windows. In In the Pleasaunce (Robertson, pl. 44), still in eighteenth-century dress, she is seated in the garden itself, while Il Penseroso (Robertson pl. 46) shows her surrounded by exotic plants in the conservatory.
In Blue Belle, the artist's daughter Enid sits holding an Chinese ivory fan, surrounded by a plethora of objets d'art that typify Victorian eclecticism and Grimshaw's collecting activities. On the table (English and probably late 1780s), two vases have been placed with calculation - a nineteenth-century Cantonese baluster vase to the left and an eighteenth-century Chinese tapering vase to the right. With flock wallpaper as a backdrop, the painting on the wall appears to be Dutch - indicated by the black Netherlandish frame and chequered floor, popular in Northern Europe. Two Chinese plates, probably eighteenth-century, are displayed on the commode next to a hexagonal green glazed jar with letters fanned across the front, echoing the fan held by the girl. The work is aesthetically balanced, and the objects, far from bearing meaning, are a statement of taste and a wider appreciation of the decorative arts. Indeed the picture is a microcosm of the Aesthetic Movement and even Blue Belle's dress is 'aesthetic' in its uncluttered line and lack of corseting.
We are grateful to Alexander Robertson for his assistance in preparing this catalogue entry.