'The haunt of heron', is an excellent example of its type, displaying all the sensitivity of Grimshaw's technique and style at this period in the early 1870s. Probably depicting Red Pike, Cumberland, it is one of at least 15 works created across his career, depicting 'tarns' across Northern England, and the artist captures the quiet solitude of the location admirably.
An experimental artist, Grimshaw employed many unusual techniques, including the mixing of sand and other ingredients with his paint to get the effect he wanted. It may also be his keen use of photography as a reference and as a tool, that explains the clarity and quality of his works in this period. His unfathomable techniques in creating such ambient effects earned Grimshaw much admiration amongst his contemporaries, as well as periods of great commercial success. Upon his death, his obituary wrote,
"He may be regarded as self-taught in all that gave character and distinction to his art. His methods, treatment, and colouring were quite unlike anything in ordinary practice. Originality stamped his work from the first, and some of the effects which, early in his career, were successfully attempted, excited considerable controversy among contemporary artists. They showed no marks of handling or brushwork, and not a few artists were doubtful whether they could be considered paintings at all." (Alexander Robertson, Atkinson Grimshaw, Phaidon, p.107, taken from an unidentified press cutting)
In 'The haunt of heron', there is an emotive sense of stillness and calm which pervades this golden image of evening light, and a deafening silence of the unstoppable, approaching night. However, as with most of Grimshaw's pictures of evening scenes, the mood is not pessimistic or melancholic, but carries an air from his earlier Pre-Raphaelite landscapes. He captures the very moments before dusk, as the golden twilight of the evening is diffusing to pick out the deep spectrum of greens and blue-purple hues that carry the coolness encroaching upon the land.
Our thanks to Alexander Robertson for his assistance in preparing this catalogue entry.