Sunday, July 25, 2010

John Atkinson Grimshaw - Roundhay Lake, Leeds

signed and dated l.r.: Atkinson Grimshaw S.93; further signed, dated and inscribed on the reverse: Roundhay Lake/ Atkinson
Grimshaw S.93
oil on canvas
46 by 69cm., 18 by 27in.

Lot Sold. Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium: 121,250 GBP

John Atkinson Grimshaw painted several views of Roundhay Park from 1872 onwards until his death. His first three paintings of the park were commissioned by a committee of the House of Lords in connection with the Leeds Corporation Improvement Bill. The Corporation of Leeds intended to purchase Roundhay Estate following the death of Nicholson in 1871. Nicholson had no heir and the Corporation wished to buy the estate and make it a public park.

The purchase was successful and the park was opened to the public on 19 September 1872 by Prince Arthur.

However, the Mayor of Leeds John Barron was severely criticised for investing in what was generally regarded to be a 'white elephant' as the park was far out of Leeds and not easily accessible. It was the remote mystery of Roundhay that attracted Grimshaw who found in the wilderness of the park and the haunting beauty of its ruins and the silent solitude of the lake, the same enigmatic beauty he had painted in the lonely suburban streets and faded glories of manor gardens of Leeds, where ivy and dry leaves veil the golden landscape. In the present picture Grimshaw captured the evening glory of the shadows and sunset reflected in the waters of the thirty-three acre lake which had been built in just two years by soldiers that had returned from the Napoleonic wars and thus named Waterloo Lake. A lone and graceful swan creates scale within the otherwise unoccupied landscape.

Grimshaw loved the natural beauty of Roundhay but also recognised the ancient serenity of its woods, which in the thirteenth century had been the hunting grounds of the DeLacy family of Pontefract Castle. Roundhay remains a public park and is now well regarded by the Leeds residents and the wildlife that is now protected within its boundaries. Flocks of mute swans still nest on Waterloo Lake as they did in Grimshaw's day and the scene has changed very little since Grimshaw painted it and since DeLacy rode through the trees hunting wild boar.

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