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John Atkinson Grimshaw (Leeds 1836-1893)
THE PROPERTY OF A LADY
John Atkinson Grimshaw (Leeds 1836-1893)

The Rookery

Details
John Atkinson Grimshaw (Leeds 1836-1893)
The Rookery
signed and dated 'Atkinson Grimshaw 1883+' (lower left), and signed, inscribed and dated 'Atkinson Grimshaw, The Rookery, 1883+' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
24¼ x 42 in. (61.6 x 106.7 cm.)

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Lot Essay

This painting dates to a highly successful period for Grimshaw as he mastered his moonlight and autumnal scenes that are now synonymous with his name. He has imbued the Victorian urban street with a sense of poetry and romance usually reserved for rural scenes, and eludes any notion of the dirty reality of the industrial era. The compositional motif, of a female figure walking down a lane with an imposing Victorian mansion behind a wall, was a theme that the artist worked on principally in the 1880s and 1890s. He first began to explore this theme in the early 1870s when he moved with his family to Knostrop Hall, a seventeenth-century manor house on the River Aire on the eastern edge of the city of Leeds. Grimshaw responded immediately to the romantic atmosphere of his new surroundings and The Rookery is exemplary of his work from this period that combines the exquisite detail influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites with a romantic narrative. There is a poetic quality to The Rookery as the thoughts of the female figure are unknown and she appears to be possibly waiting, suggesting a lovers' meeting in secret or a past tryst, the recollection of which causes her to pause.

John Atkinson Grimshaw was the son of an ex-policeman and first began painting while working as a clerk for the Great Northern Railway. He encountered bitter opposition from his parents, but after his marriage in 1858 to Theodosia Hobbarde, a cousin of Thomas Sydney Cooper, he was able to devote himself to art. By 1870, he was successful enough to rent Knostrop Old Hall, near Temple Newsam, which features in many of his pictures. Later in the 1870s, he built a house near Scarborough, and in the 1880s rented a studio in Chelsea. Grimshaw painted mostly for private patrons, and exhibited only five works at the Royal Academy between 1874 and 1886, and one at the Grosvenor Gallery. Grimshaw strove constantly to perfect his own very individual vision. His primary influence was the Pre-Raphaelites and he produced landscapes of accurate color and lighting, and vivid detail. He often painted landscapes that typified seasons or a type of weather; city and suburban street scenes and moonlit views of the docks in London, Leeds, Liverpool, and Glasgow also figured prominently in his art. By applying his skill in lighting effects, and unusually careful attention to detail, he was often capable of intricately describing a scene, while strongly conveying its mood. His 'paintings of dampened gas-lit streets and misty waterfronts conveyed an eerie warmth as well as alienation in the urban scene' (P.J. Waller, Town, City and Nation, Oxford, 1983, p. 99).

We are grateful to Alexander Robertson for confirming the authenticity of this work on the basis of a photograph.

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