Monday, September 20, 2010
John Atkinson Grimshaw - Golden Gleam
31 by 46cm., 12 by 18in.
signed l.r.: Atkinson Grimshaw +; inscribed and signed on the reverse: A Golden Gleam/ Atkinson Grimshaw/ +
oil on canvas
Throughout the 1880s John Atkinson Grimshaw painted a series of views of suburban streets in autumn, predominantly painted in Yorkshire. In these images of roads and lanes between the high stone walls hiding mansions and villas from prying eyes, the scenes are deserted except for a solitary female figure making her way down a leaf and puddle strewn road. These paintings are perhaps the most evocative and typical of the artist, who was unrivalled in his depiction of the evening gloaming. The busy traffic of horses and carts bringing goods into the city from the outlying farms have left their impressions in the damp soil of the road, but most have long since departed and the gateways have been closed to the outside world. There is an emotive sense of stillness and calm which pervades these golden images of evening light. Grimshaw was arguably the most evocative painter of moonlit and evening scenes in which calmness and silence pervades these moody images. The subject is not a specific locality, but the effects of light upon a generic suburban street. Unlike the pictures of the great cities of Britain and the fishing villages that Grimshaw painted, there are no landmarks in Golden Gleam to place the exact location and the picture is therefore a more abstract summary of glorious light and autumnal splendour. The sense of mystery evoked by the appearance of the lonely road is further enhanced by the anonymity of the scene with the exact location withheld. The Victorians had a huge appetite for such romantic intrigue and it was a prevalent theme in the novels, plays and poetry of the age. Grimshaw himself was inspired by the writings of Wordsworth, Browning, Shelley and in particular Tennyson. Alexander Robertson sums up thus; 'A few lines from Tennyson's 'Enoch Arden' seem to demonstrate this most succinctly:
'The climbing street, the mill, the leafy lanes,
The peacock-yewtree and the lonely Hall,
The horse he drove, the boat he sold, the chill
November dawns and dewy glooming downs,
The gentle shower, the smell of dying leaves'
In Golden Gleam the notion of conclusion and decay is paramount, the end of the day when the sun sets, the end of the year as the trees are stripped of leaves and the end of the daily routine of the maid making her solitary way home carrying a basket. By flooding the scene with diffused golden light, Grimshaw celebrates the beauty of the close of day.
at 6:00 AM