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

Southwark Bridge and St. Paul's

John Atkinson Grimshaw (1836-1893)
Southwark Bridge and St. Paul's
signed and dated 'Atkinson Grimshaw 1883 +' (lower right) and inscribed, signed and dated 'London Southwark Bridge and St. Paul's Atkinson Grimshaw Leeds 1883' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
20 x 30 in. (51 x 76 cm.)
Sir Anthony Lousada, by whom given to the present owner in the 1950s.

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Lot Essay

London had a strong attraction for John Atkinson Grimshaw, who first painted in the capital in 1880. Having established a studio in Manresa Road, Chelsea, the artist became friends with Whistler, who is reputed to have remarked 'I thought I had invented the Nocturne, until I saw Grimmy's moonlights'. Indeed, one feels that there is a mutual appreciation of the late evening and night shared by the two artists. In Whistler's 'Ten O'Clock Lecture' of 1885, one can trace the connection when in one passage the American speaks of how the 'mist clothes the riverside with poetry, as with a veil, and the poor buildings lose themselves in the dim sky, and the tall chimneys become campanili, and the warehouses are palaces in the night, and the whole city hangs in the heavens'. It is easy to apply these words to both Grimshaws in the sale.

St Paul's Cathedral, from the River Thames (1883) (lot 71) is a work produced by an artist at the height of his powers. A full, solitary moon gazes down upon St. Paul's and the Thames, its light glistening across the ripples, and dancing off the mist beyond the bridge. A ring of refracted light encircles the moon, and adds subtle colour to the sky, while the clouds, silhouetted by a silvery light, blanket London. Gas-lamps appear to replace the stars, giving the city an almost ethereal quality, while the cathedral, majestic and timeless, dominates the horizon, penetrating the night, and disrupting the skyline with sublime tranquility. The city's unremitting activity is communicated by the silhouettes crossing Southwark Bridge, but most noticeably by the two industrious figures, at work in the boats below.

Southwark Bridge from Blackfriars (lot 130) was executed by Grimshaw in the previous year, 1882, and again, possesses the qualities found in the finest examples of his work: a luminescence, and an almost 'other-worldly' tranquility. Finely painted, John Ruskin's "Truth to nature" edict is highly apparent in the artist's painstaking attention to detail, and the profound influence of the Pre-Raphaelites is noticeable in his technique: numerous subtle, thin glazes of colour have been meticulously built up, on a base of white ground to create a glowing translucence - a method favoured and employed by W.H. Hunt and J.E. Millais.

The energy of London is tangible in both paintings, and although painted around 130 years ago, one feels that the atmosphere captured by Grimshaw, is an atmosphere familiar to any present day resident or visitor to the city.

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