John Atkinson Grimshaw (British, 1836-1893)
Property from an Important Private Collection
John Atkinson Grimshaw (British, 1836-1893)

Moonlight, Wharfedale

John Atkinson Grimshaw (British, 1836-1893)
Moonlight, Wharfedale
indistinctly signed 'Atkinson ......' (lower right)
oil on card
17 3/8 x 21 in. (43.8 x 55.2 cm.)
Painted circa 1870-1879.
W. H. Gaunt, by 1879.
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 5 November 1997, lot 179.
with Richard Green, London, by 1998.
Acquired directly from the above, 1998.
York, Yorkshire Fine Art & Industrial Exhibition, 1879, no. 1210, as Valley of the Wharfe by Moonlight.
London, Richard Green, John Atkinson Grimshaw, 11 February-7 March 1998, no. 4 (erroneously catalogued as being on canvas).
Harrogate, Mercer Art Gallery, Atkinson Grimshaw, Painter of Moonlight, 16 April-4 September 2011, also London, The Guildhall Art Gallery, 19 September 2011-15 January 2012, pp. 142-143, 174, no. 133, illustrated.

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Lot Essay

This is one of the most luminous and poetic of all Grimshaw’s nocturnes, testament to his love of the natural world, and to his native county of Yorkshire. Full of romantic possibility, two figures stand at a gate admiring the beauty of the moon-drenched valley below. Curiously, the landscape has been painted before the sky, leading to the suggestion that the composition may have started as a daylight picture. Certainly, throughout the 1870s, when this picture was painted, Grimshaw developed his moonlight scenes in response to their popularity. The fact that he changed his mind with this painting suggests that it is an earlier work, when he was still striving for effect. The bare branches of the trees to the left, which act to frame the composition, are drawn with particular care. Remnants of the artist’s Pre-Raphaelite working techniques, which recorded elements in pain-staking detail, are still evident.
Grimshaw painted other works in Wharfedale, notably in the environs of Bolton Abbey. The valley lies twenty five miles north west of Knostrop, where the artist lived, in the south-eastern suburbs of Leeds.
We are grateful to Alexander Robertson for his help in preparing this catalogue entry.

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