Glasgow docks signed and dated 'Atkinson Grimshaw 1883+' (lower left) oil on canvas 51.5 x 76.5cm (20 1/4 x 30 1/8in).
The dock scenes of the great ports of the north of England and of Scotland remained a constant theme in Grimshaw's oeuvre until the end of his career. It is welcome to see in the present painting all the qualities which Grimshaw could bring to this theme presenting a carefully thought out composition carried out with all the care and subtlety the artist could achieve.
It seems likely that the first use of the dockside motif occurred around 1875 as Grimshaw became established on the London art scene when his paintings were exhibited at the prestigious Thomas Agnew Gallery. Already known for his depictions of suburban lanes with isolated houses set in gardens hidden behind stone walls, the artist was expanding his subjects to include domestic interior subjects of the modern woman along with classical and mythological scenes. But the river and port subjects seen by night were to become a defining aspect of Grimshaw's career.
In Glasgow all the familiar elements of such compositions are present and painted in such a way as to transform what would have been a dreary rather insalubrious locale into an attractive night scene bathed in moonlight and rosy hues of colour; a theme picked up in Whistler's famous '10 O'Clock lecture' of 1885 where he talks of night transforming warehouses into campanili. Here Grimshaw's ability to merge all the elements into a seamless whole is triumphantly carried out. The care which the artist shows in all the details of the ships' rigging and the introduction of touches of light along the barriers of the road works, with flickers of light and spots of green seen in the wet road surface all come together in a harmonious whole. Nothing is allowed to dominate the scene as Grimshaw subsumes everything into a poetic harmony.
For a similar composition, painted in 1881, see Bonhams, London 27 January 2011, lot 113