One of the most enduring subjects created by Atkinson Grimshaw is the suburban lane with its high walls, trees, a partly hidden mansion and a single figure, usually female, walking along a leaf strewn road.
The compositional motif was first created in the early 1870s when Grimshaw and his family had moved to Knostrop Hall, a seventeenth century manor house by the River Aire on the eastern edge of Leeds. The romantic in Grimshaw responded readily to such surroundings; his own fascination with poetry and legend can be seen in the naming of his children after characters from Tennyson's Idylls of the King.
The desire to conjure up a wistful nostalgia for the past seems to be the motivating force in paintings such as Sixty Years Ago. The composition is on a grand scale, comparable to paintings of the Thames and Leeds Bridge. The detail is quite remarkable with reflections showing in the puddled lane, a mass of intricate tracery silhouetted against the winter sky, the elegant female figure stepping warily across the muddy roadway, the whole scene bathed in a sharp clear light. What Grimshaw achieves is a fine sense of atmosphere, poetry, and mood made up of a very simple components; the enduring fascination of such paintings is their apparent simplicity creating a view back in time, to a golden age that never was.
We are grateful to Alex Robertson for providing us with the above catalogue entry.