Oil on canvas
8 3/4 x 18 inches
Signed: Atkinson Grimshaw
Private collection, Santa Barbara, CA
I considered myself the inventor of nocturnes until I saw Grimmy’s moonlight pictures.
-James McNeill Whistler
Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs, 1976, E. Bénézit
The Random House Dictionary of Art and Artists, 1988, Random House
19th-Century Art, 1984, Robert Rosenblum & H.W. Janson
Dictionary of Victorian Painters, 1978, Christopher Wood
Whitby from Station Quay is a spectacular nocturnal view by prestigious and important Victorian painter John Atkinson Grimshaw. The artist, renowned for his paintings of landscapes, townscapes and dockyards, usually portrayed his subjects as seen by moonlight, lamplight or dusk. Grimshaw painted with a highly personalized style, often using photography as a compositional aid, and sometimes even mixed sand with his paints to create a textural effect.
Grimshaw’s works are particularly distinctive and are highly sought after. It is documented that forgeries of this extraordinary artist’s works appeared even before his death in 1893. He painted primarily for private patrons, working so exclusively that he allowed only five of his paintings to be exhibited at the Royal Academy in London. Grimshaw is well represented in important private collections and museums around the world.
This work is a view of the town of Whitby on an estuary of the Esk River in North Yorkshire. A full moon turns the cloudy sky and choppy river into fields of brilliant topaz mottled with pale aquamarine. A woman stands along a dark balustrade in the foreground, her shadowed, black figure leading the eye to the distant town. The buildings across the river are sharp, geometrical forms the color of rust that contrast both in color and form with the river and sky. Between the lines of the balustrade and that of Whitby float sleepy cargo ships, the sharp verticality of their masts breaking the horizontal lines of the landscape. A long quay juts into the river at the right of the composition, topped by the black figures of boats-men finishing their daily work. The dark shape of the quay is balanced by a tranquil ship at the far left of the composition. Grimshaw has succeeded in creating a picture that is at once quiet and shimmering, nocturnal and vibrant, with this stunning view.
Works by Grimshaw can be found in the permanent collections of the following museums:
Tate Gallery, London; Guildhall Art Gallery, London; Leeds City Art Gallery; Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool; Musée des Beaux Arts, Brest, France; New Orleans Museum of Art; Nelson-Atkins Gallery, Kansas City, Missouri; Minneapolis Institute of Arts; Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut; Rhode Island School of Design; Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut; Shepparton Art Centre, Welsford, Australia; King George VI Art Gallery, Port Elizabeth, South Africa