If you are in the UK between September 19 and January 15, 2012, make sure that you see the Atkinson Grimshaw exhibition at the City of London’s Guildhall: you will not be disappointed.
In June, I made a trek up to the Yorkshire town of Harrogate where this exhibition was first shown and it was simply one of the best art displays I have ever seen. I have loved the works of Grimshaw since I was a Leeds University student (a very long time ago!) and I came across some of his paintings in the city’s art gallery.
I was delighted at reconnecting with his work and seeing so much more of it. Some pictures marked ‘private collection’ have been lent, I was told, by ‘politicians and entertainers’. With my brain quickly into gear, I started running through a list of stars known to collect Victorian art: Rod? Ozzy? But, sadly, the guides would give nothing more away.
John Atkinson Grimshaw (1836-1893) was a self-taught artist who became famous for his Pre-Raphaelite style landscapes and haunting nocturnal scenes. Grimshaw is known as ‘the painter of moonlight’, mainly because of his works featuring moonlit suburban lanes, gas-lit streets and docksides. They capture a world gone by: the coming of electric light put an end to the shimmering gaslight on rain-washed city streets that he painted so evocatively.
Close up, his works take on a mystery: just how did he create that mesh of tiny hairlike branches in paintings of winter trees, or the golden glow back-lighting misty buildings, or the iridescent wings of ’Iris’? We can only imagine.
The exhibition includes drawings, manuscripts and photographs to help visitors develop a greater understanding of Atkinson Grimshaw’s life, which no-one could describe as easy. Tragedy touched his family - three little daughters died in one year. He died prematurely at fifty seven, successful but not wealthy.
A new book has been written to tie in with the exhibition: Atkinson Grimshaw: Painter of Moonlight, edited by Jane Sellars, is the most detailed study of his life and work to date and is available only at the Guildhall gallery shop (£20). Earlier books about the artist are available on Amazon.
Atkinson Grimshaw: Painter of Moonlight runs from Monday 19th September 2011 to Sunday 15th January 2012. Tickets cost £5 (£3 concessions and free under 16). Telephone: 020 7332 3700, email firstname.lastname@example.org