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The Moonlight: John Atkinson Grimshaw


The “remarkable and imaginative painter” of Victorian Era who is best known for his somber moonlight upon urban landscapes and dockyards through leafless trees or cotton clouds expounded with pallid and augmented silhouettes, light and wet city streets.

Born in Park Street, Leeds on 6 September 1836 to Mary and David Grimshaw, John Atkinson Grimshaw began his working life as a clerk for the Great Northern Railway. It was during the time as a clerk he begun to explore his love for painting. In 1861, at the age of 24, to the dismay of his parents, he abandoned his job to endorse all his time to become a painter. In 1862, only a year later after he had left his job, Grimshaw had his first exhibition under the patronage of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society, which was mostly paintings of birds, fruit and blossom focused on still life and nature. By 1870, Grimashaw became successful enough to move to Knostrop Hall and rented another house in Scarborough, which he called ‘The Castle by the Sea’ and became his favorite subject. He only exhibited five works at the Royal Academy between 1874 and 1876.

At The Park Gate by John Atkinson Grimshaw (Wikimedia Common)
The Lovers by John Atkinson Grimshaw (Wikimedia Common)
Blackman Street, London by John Atkinson Grimshaw (Wikimedia Common)
Canny Glasgow by John Atkinson Grimshaw (Wikimedia Common)

Grimshaw’s paintings were primarily influenced by Pre-Raphaelite predilection for realism. He painted many urban scenes where moonlight and shadows were the primary feature. Favoring urban landscapes and dockyards he accurately captured Victorian industrialism with changing seasons and vivid details. He also painted landscapes, portraits, fairy pictures and interiors but the enchanting views of cities and suburban streets of Docklands in London, Hull, Liverpool, and Glasgow in moonlight are the paintings he is best remembered for.

Featured Image: John Atkinson Grimshaw – Evening Glow



  1. good post. i love reading about art history and the painters of our past. i can relate somehow to all of them as an artist, even if they don’t paint the same as myself. it is the journey i find fascinating, the life of a painter/artist.

    Liked by 1 person

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