Thursday, January 26, 2012

John Atkinson Grimshaw - In the artist's house

signed and dated 'Atkinson Grimshaw/1878 May' (lower right), and signed and inscribed 'A reverie Atkinson Grimshaw' (on the stretcher)
oil on canvas
32¾ x 48¼ in. (83.3 x 127.7 cm.)

Although Grimshaw is best known for his moonlit 'nocturnes', of British ports and the lanes of suburban Leeds, he produced in the 1870s a remarkable group of works celebrating the interiors he created at Knostrop Hall, a house he leased on the Temple Newsam estate.

These demonstrate the prevailing taste for Japanese objects. Following the dawn of the Meiji period, during which Japan, after centuries of self-imposed isolation, sought to strengthen its links with the West, Japanese textiles, fans and ceramics became a pre-requisite for fashionable, 'aesthetic' interiors. The eclecticism of this taste is shown in the richly stamped wall paper, which showed the Jacobean furniture to best advantage. The exoticism is continued in the deliberately archaic costume of the sitter who wears her hair, her gown and slippers in a pastiche of the fashions of Regency England. Everything in the interior has been carefully collected, and composed to demonstrate a refined sensibility.

In this small series of pictures of his house and garden, Grimshaw demonstrates his versatility as an artist. Several carry echoes of Alma-Tadema, and Tissot, and they brought the artist to the attention of leading London galleries, such as Agnew's, who started to sell his work from the 1880s onwards. Perhaps Grimshaw's most sophisticated and celebrated interior, entitled 'Dulce Domum', is now in the collection of Lord Lloyd Webber and was exhibited at his exhibition at the Royal Academy, Pre-Raphaelite and Other Masters, 2003, no. 117.


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