John Atkinson Grimshaw (1836-1893)
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John Atkinson Grimshaw (1836-1893)

In the Pleasaunce

John Atkinson Grimshaw (1836-1893)
In the Pleasaunce
signed and dated 'Atkinson Grimshaw 1875+' (lower left) and further signed, inscribed and dated '"In the Pleasaunce". Painted by Atkinson Grimshaw/at Ye Old Hall/Knostrop Leeds 1875' (on the stretcher).
oil on canvas
18¾ x 30 in. (47.7 x 76.2 cm.)
Anonymous sale; Christie's, London, 15 December 1972, lot 43 (4,000 gns to Frost & Reed).
Anonymous sale; Christie's, London, 3 February 1978, lot 224 (£7,200 to the husband of the present vendor).
Jane Abdy, 'Summer', Christie's Review of the Season, 1978, p. 77. Guardian, 26 May 1979, p. 10.
A. Robertson, Atkinson Grimshaw 1836-1893, 1998, p. 39, illustrated pl. 44.
C. Wood and P. Hobhouse, Painted Gardens: English Watercolours 1850-1914, 1988, p. 40, illustrated pl. 24.
D. Dewing ed., Home and Garden, exhibition catalogue, London, Geffrye Museum, 2003, no. 80, pp. 184-5, illustrated p. 185.
London, Victoria and Albert Museum, The Garden, 1979. Leeds, Leeds City Art Gallery, Southampton, City Art Gallery, and Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery, Atkinson Grimshaw, October-November 1979, no. 26.
London, Richard Green, Atkinson Grimshaw 1836-1893, November 1990, no. 5.
London, Geffrye Museum, Home and Garden, September 2003-July 2004, no. 80.
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Lot Essay

'Must paint Fanny in the garden' wrote Grimshaw in one of his sketchbooks. The result is this unusual and felicitous picture, where the artist's wife, Frances Theodosia, dressed in 18th Century costume, is shown seated on a Coalbrookdale bench, shaded by an Oriental umbrella. The garden is that of Knostrop Old Hall, a 17th Century gabled manor house two miles to the east of Leeds, to which the artist moved in 1870.

Born the son of a policeman and self-taught as an artist, Grimshaw was justifiably proud of the house his success had enabled him to acquire. He celebrated his good fortune in a series of paintings of Knostrop's garden and interior, many of which, like the present example, were executed in 1875. Spring and Summer (Robertson, op. cit., pls. 36 and 1) also show Fanny dressed in 18th Century costume in interiors crammed with aesthetic bric-à-brac. The pictures are a celebration of light and colour and are a radical departure from the lane scenes for which Grimshaw had become famous. Il Penseroso shows Fanny in a conservatory surrounded by exotic plants and owes a clear debt to Tissot, as does a yet undiscovered work from 1876: the reviewer of the Yorkshire Post went so far as to state A Question of Colour 'might have been conceived and painted by Tissot'. As a frequent vistitor to his friend's house in St John's Wood, Grimshaw was keenly aware of the financial rewards that Tissot enjoyed with his pictures of fashionably dressed women residing in sumptuous interiors. Grimshaw felt he might profitably emulate him: as ever the direction of his work was influenced not only by his own personal preferences but by the proven commercial success of other artists.

The highlight of Grimshaw's series is Dulce Domum, started in 1876 but not completed until 1885. Sold in these Rooms on 12 June 1992, lot 115, for £145,000, a then record price for the artist, it is now in the collection of the Lord Lloyd Webber and was shown at the Royal Academy, Pre-Raphaelites and Other Masters, 2003, no. 117. A technical tour-de-force arguably on a par with Tissot's virtuoso performances, it depicts the dining room at Knostrop, where the artist's daughter Enid, named from Tennyson's Idylls of the King, is seated listening to music, perhaps composed by her brother Arthur. The room is filled with Japanese fans, Chinese pots brimming with flowers and peacock feathers, a statue, embroidery and ebony furniture - all bearing witness to the artist's 'aesthetic' taste. Indeed the painting has come to be seen as a microcosm of the Aesthetic movement.

If Dulce Domum is the quintessence of the Aesthetic interior, In the Pleasaunce bears testament to Aesthetic taste in the garden. Amongst the formal Italianate urns, filled with red geraniums, and the neatly picked out rows of bedding, are more romantic plantings of lilies and poppies. The highly stylized and formal is giving way to a softer, more naturalistic approach, deliberately historicist, as the title of the picture - an Elizabethan term for a secluded lady's bower - implies. Following the success of this picture, Grimshaw painted another comparable example, In the Rector's Garden, Queen of the Lilies, now in the Harris Museum & Art Gallery, Preston (Robertson, op. cit. pl. 46). Grimshaw rarely exhibited at the Royal Academy: Dulce Domum was one of only five works he ever showed there, and this painting entered a private collection soon after it was executed.

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