Autumn Afterglow signed and dated 'Atkinson Grimshaw/1883+' (lower right), signed, inscribed with title and dated on reverse oil on canvas 51 x 76cm (20 1/16 x 29 15/16in).
Provenance: Reputedly from the Collection of Councillor William Metcalf, who received three paintings from the artist in lieu of rent.
The Leeds Corporation commissioned Atkinson Grimshaw to paint three paintings of Roundhay Park, which the city of Leeds purchased in 1872, to provide the Parlimentary Committee in London with some idea of the Park's appearance. The Town Council needed to promote the Parliamentary Improvement Bill in Parliament in order to open the Roundhay estate as a public park. The park was opened as a public space in 19th September 1872, by HRH Prince Arthur.1
We can only speculate that Metcalf, listed as Councillor for the Leeds Central Ward in 1882-3, may have seen and admired Grimshaw's paintings and he would have been only too happy to receive three in lieu of rent when Grimshaw hit a leaner period in the 1880s.
1Alexander Robertson, Atkinson Grimshaw, (Phaidon, 1988), p.35. The three commissions are illustrated (pls. 31, 32 and 35).
We are extremely grateful to Alexander Robertson, who has examimed the present lot at first hand, and has provided the following note.
By 1880, Grimshaw had had a very successful decade, becoming an established artist with a modest national reputation and seeing his work exhibited in London and the provinces. Following a financial crisis in 1879 the artist was forced to increase his output substantially, even taking a studio in London in 1884 to help him expand his subject matter.
His trademarks were Yorkshire fishing ports but more especially scenes of the new industrial cities and their surrounding districts often by moonlight or at specific times of the year particularly Spring and Autumn. He did continue to produce interior scenes showing the fashionable woman of the house and subjects from classical and literary sources but the two main themes were dock scenes and suburban lanes usually featuring a house and a lonely figure.
In Autumn Afterglow the artist's gifts are fully realised particularly in his portrayal of the light which permeates the scene contributing to the sense of a chill stillness. Grimshaw's early training as an observer of nature in minute detail, later enabled him to adapt this skill in his more poetic and atmospheric subjects; thus we see the mass of leaves, the mossy walls and the delicate screen of twigs and branches subsumed into the overall harmony.
As is usual with the artist, he uses houses which are rarely identifiable, often combining different elements into a new building. Grimshaw's love of poetry, and particularly Tennyson, can be seen as a guiding force behind the best of such paintings with the sense of loss and decay, the smell of autumn leaves subtlety hinted at.
In such pictures the artist confirms his position as an observer of the Victorian scene supplying valuable insight into this fascinating period of national change.