John Atkinson Grimshaw intrigues me on lots of levels. For a start; he’s self-taught and painted so beautifully places that I walk by everyday. A Victorian-era painter he was famous for his landscapes, cityscapes it is said that even Turner envied his ability to capture the moon. Atkinson Grimshaw was a “remarkable and imaginative painter” born in Leeds (my city). He painted many scenes near where I live which makes his work and life far more palpable, he even painted Roundhay landscapes such as “Tree Shadows in the Park Wall”.
Roundhay Park is my Eden so I often try to imagine painted scenes as I’m walking along a path and decide in my head on where he must have been stood to capture a particular section of the lake, wall or trees and decipher how he was looking at the landscape, his relationship with what he was seeing as he painted it all those years ago.
His accurate colour and vivid realism are inspirational and one of my favourite paintings is: “Spirit of the Night” an ethereal fairy glowing in the nightlight is full of magic and mystery. I have even been inspired to create a fairy garden within my garden to see if she will return one evening.
I have to be honest I feel a little sad and selfish that some of his best works are not of Leeds that London stole his talent and he ventured to the bright city lights to paint “Nightfall on the Thames”. In this painting the moon is a sickyly, absynthe tone and the air is thick with cloud, emotion and mystery. It’s incredibly atmospheric I’m sure you’ll agree.
There’s something beautiful about his painting “Dead Linnet” of a life, lived, pure and free. It’s natural not haunting, I love it. I love that something so small and seemingly insignificant continues to touch lives long after it has gone.
Grimshaw is proof to me that the grim north is a beautiful place to be.