Sunday, March 7, 2010
John Atkinson Grimshaw - South Bay, Scarborough
signed and dated l.r.: Atkinson Grimshaw/ 1882+
oil on canvas
20 by 30 in.
Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium: 120,000 GBP
'And when the evening mist clothes the riverside with poetry, as with a veil, and the poor buildings lose themselves in the dim sky, and the tall chimneys become campanili, and the warehouses are palaces in the night, and the whole city hangs in the heavens, and fairy land is before us - then the wayfarer hastens home; the working man and the cultured one, the wise man and the one of pleasure, cease to understand, as they have ceased to see, and Nature, who, for once has sung in tune, sings her exquisite song to the artist alone, her son and master - her son in that he loves her, her master in that he knows her.' -James Abbott McNeill Whistler, from his Ten O'Clock Lecture, 1885.
Grimshaw knew Scarborough intimately having lived there from 1876, painting the town on numerous occasions and from a variety of perspectives. He rented a house from Thomas Jarvis, a local brewer who was Grimshaw's patron as well as his landlord. The house was named 'The Castle by the Sea' after the poem by Longfellow. Grimshaw's twins, Lancelot and Elaine were born during his time there but sadly the family had to give up the house due to financial difficulties in 1880. Scarborough provided an abundance of inspiration and Grimshaw painted some of his most successful compositions during this period including a rare documentary piece 'Sic Transit Gloria Mundi' The Burning of the Spa Saloon, Scarborough (Scarborough Art Gallery).
The present work shows the old harbour at dusk, to the right is the old fishing town which lies in the shadow of the imposing Scarborough Castle built by William le Gros, Earl of Albemarle during the reign of Henry I. Scarborough's economy was in transition during the second decade of the nineteenth century. The opening of the Grand hotel in 1867 paved the way for tourism but this new prosperity came at the expense of the traditional fishing industry and the lone figure on the quay imbues the work with a sense of isolation.
Unlike similar versions of this composition the Whistlerian use of fog and haze has given way to a clear night with the moon perfectly reflected on the mill pond sea. This contrasts wonderfully with the illuminated detail of the town. As Alexander Robertson observes,
''Grimshaw combines these two kinds of activity, the watching and the working, in a composition which gives him an opportunity to portray different light effects, natural and man-made. Such paintings are the essence of Grimshaw, who presents to the spectator a scene of calm observation where the subject is given a poetic overlay by the use of light, usually moonlight.'
at 6:00 AM