John Atkinson Grimshaw was born in Leeds in 1836. His father worked for the Great Northern Railway and secured a job for his son as a clerk when John was 16 1852. Grimshaw was interested in art but his parents did not support his choice to become an artist. His parents were strict Baptists and discouraged the boy from art. His mother went as far as destroying his paints. In 1856 he married his cousin Frances Hubbard and the couple had several children together.
Grimshaw quit his job as a railroad clerk in 1861 to paint full time; he sold his work in Leeds in galleries and book shops gaining a following with collectors there. His early work was mostly highly detailed landscape and still life paintings and a few portraits. His success grew in the 1870’s and he was able to rent a second home in Scarborough overlooking the ocean. He dropped the John from his signature and began signing his work as Atkinson Grimshaw. His success pushed him to expand his subject matter and he painted society women, historical subjects, fairy paintings and moonlight scenes.
Today Grimshaw is remembered for his nocturnes and a few iconic images of fairies. The nocturnes range from moonlit seascapes to city scenes at twilight all painted with an exquisite sense of light and mood. Financially successful, Grimshaw had little time to paint for exhibitions. He was painting private commissions for art patrons most of his life.
In 1893 John Atkinson Grimshaw died of cancer at the age of 57. Four of his children, Arthur, Louis, Wilfred and Elaine were also painters and continued his artistic legacy.
Phaidon Press Ltd. 1988
Popular 19th century painting
A dictionary of European Genre painters
Phillip Hook and Mark Poltimore
Antique Collectors Club press 1986