John Atkinson Grimshaw (British, 1836-1893) Night vigil
Lot 78*
John Atkinson Grimshaw
(British, 1836-1893)
Night vigil
Sold for £18,750 (US$ 31,515) inc. premium
Lot Details
John Atkinson Grimshaw (British, 1836-1893)
Night vigil
oil on canvas laid down on board
50.5 x 76cm (19 7/8 x 29 15/16in).


  • By the early 1870s, after ten years as a professional artist, Atkinson Grimshaw had achieved a local reputation in Yorkshire and was about to be taken on to the books of prestigious London art dealer Thomas Agnew and Son. Grimshaw's eerily poetic moonlight scenes of suburban streets and woodland lanes were proving to be extremely popular, as were his characteristic dockside views of Liverpool and Glasgow.

    However there was another side to Grimshaw's interests and that was his love of poetry and literature. In 1873 he had produced his first figurative picture Dido the Carthaginian Queen who is seen wearing a diaphanous veil standing in a vaguely classical location. Grimshaw was soon producing other classical literary subjects.

    The market for these compositions set in imagined ancient times had been created by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, OM, RA (1836-1912) with his scintillating depictions of beautiful people against a background of marble panels and mosaic pavements. These pictures purported to show the life of the ancients. As an Agnew artist Grimshaw would no doubt have seen such works in the company's exhibitions, and also those of fellow artist J.J.J. Tissot (1836–1902) who set a trend for paintings of the Modern Woman in domestic and social settings, a genre which Grimshaw also set out to copy, paintings aimed at the new middle class collector.

    Night Vigil, although undated, belongs to this period. The elegant female figure, wearing a sort of tea-gown kimono and standing on a minutely observed tessellated pavement, stares plaintively across a garden terrace banked with plants and featuring a prominent blue and white bowl, containing a blossoming miniature tree. Such classical settings remained an occasional feature of Grimshaw's output until the end of the decade, and like the familiar moonlight scenes of his earlier career, they have a similar nostalgic contemplative mood, linking the contemporary Victorian age to that of the ancient world.

    We are grateful to Alex Robertson for confirming the authenticity of the present lot after first-hand inspection and his assistance in cataloguing the lot.
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  1. Sam Travers
    Specialist - 19th Century Paintings
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