John Atkinson Grimshaw (British, 1836-1893) View of Briggate with Dyson's clock in the background, Leeds
Lot 120
John Atkinson Grimshaw
(British, 1836-1893)
View of Briggate with Dyson's clock in the background, Leeds
Sold for £16,250 (US$ 26,316) inc. premium

Lot Details
John Atkinson Grimshaw (British, 1836-1893)
View of Briggate with Dyson's clock in the background, Leeds
signed and numbered 'ATKINSON GRIMSHAW F19' (lower left)
oil with sand over a photographic base
30 x 45.5cm (11 13/16 x 17 15/16in).

Footnotes

  • The present lot is a superb small townscape of the city looking south from Briggate across the junction with Boar Lane to lower Briggate. A few familiar landmarks remain on either side of the crossing but the most significant is the old Dyson's Watch and Jewellery shop with its famous clock and Greenwich Time Ball on the roof.

    The appeal of such a composition for Grimshaw was the juxtaposition of various light sources such as the hidden moon shedding its light from behind a building and the artificial light sources from shop windows, street lamps and the shimmering reflected light on the wet cobbles.

    From the mid 1870s Grimshaw had developed an increasing interest in street scenes, particularly of dock-side subjects where various strata of society came together. Now instead of lonely country lanes with a solitary figure we see the modern town and city bustling with life. Here the carriages and horse drawn trams ply their trade and evening strollers wander by.

    The present lot dates from the late 1880s and is painted over a photographic base. There are a limited number of such pictures. Quite why Grimshaw chose to do this and to give them some sort of number code (here F19) is unclear. Possibly it was a quicker way to produce city views but the actual painting is usually exquisitely done with a delicate signature and containing all the subtlety of the artist's best work.

    Increasing urbanisation attracted those observers keen to show the changing environment in the street fabric of the great towns and cities and also how modern life could be portrayed. In her book Mary Barton Mrs Gaskell pointed out the pleasures of window shopping and seeing the goods by night-time illumination. Charles Dickens and George Gissing wrote of night time observations while the artist J.M. Whistler noted in his Ten 'clock lecture how factory chimneys along the river became campanili by night.

    It was such transformations which lay at the heart of Grimshaw's night-time compositions, where he was able to cloak the grime of every day reality with its soot and industrial pollution with a sheen of poetic mystery and atmosphere providing the modern viewer with a nostalgic look back to our recent past.

    We are grateful to Alex Robertson for his assistance in cataloguing this lot.
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