130
130
John Atkinson Grimshaw
A MOUNTAIN ROAD, FLOOD TIME
Estimate
30,00050,000
LOT SOLD. 74,500 GBP
JUMP TO LOT
130
John Atkinson Grimshaw
A MOUNTAIN ROAD, FLOOD TIME
Estimate
30,00050,000
LOT SOLD. 74,500 GBP
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

A Green and Pleasant Land: Two Centuries of British Landscape Painting

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London

John Atkinson Grimshaw
1836 - 1893
A MOUNTAIN ROAD, FLOOD TIME
signed and titled on upper stretcher: Honister Series No.3/ A Mountain Road, Flood time/ Atkinson Grimshaw
oil with pencil on paper laid on canvas
76 by 63cm., 30 by 25in.
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Provenance

Purchased from the artist by Frederick H. Barr of Leeds and thence by descent until 2004;
Bonhams, London, 17 November 2004, lot 157;
Fine Art Society, London, August 2005

Literature

Alexander Robertson, Atkinson Grimshaw, London, 1996, passim.

Catalogue Note

When this dramatic and beautiful painting was rediscovered in 2004 in the collection of a descendant of the Leeds solicitor Frederick H. Barr - in whose family it had remained for well over a century – it was an exciting rediscovery. It was an important addition to the small group of early pictures by Grimshaw that celebrate the magnificent wilderness of the Lake District. Unlike Grimshaw’s nocturnes and poetic romances, which have a quiet and reflective atmosphere – somewhat repetitive in their compositions - the Cumberland pictures of the 1860s are energetic and experimental in technique and crystalline in silvery detail. Here the rocks in the foreground are painted with geological clarity, the pools of water glistening with icy mountain water and the air heavy with fog illuminated by brilliant sunlight. Grimshaw combined the attentive Pre-Raphaelite approach to landscape painting in the foreground, with the more atmospheric style of Turner and Linnell in the sky which has a more celestial intensity and almost heroic composition of glorious desolation.

Through the meandering composition of the mountain-pass, the boulder-strewn river-bed and the converging slopes of the mountainsides, Grimshaw introduced the arc of a rainbow creating a contrast in colour and also unifying the composition. It is not simply a picturesque detail in the picture, or merely a reflection of Grimshaw’s interest in fleeting meteorological lighting effects. It is a symbol of Heavenly power, of the Lord’s presence on earth, intended 'to act as metaphor for God's pact with humanity' (A. Robertson, Atkinson Grimshaw, 1996, p.41). The geologically-studied landscape may have a deeper religious symbolism as the science of geology was a controversial subject in the mid-nineteenth century when it was used to try to both prove and disprove the existence of God. Grimshaw and his family had recently converted to Roman Catholicism and therefore the rainbow is symbolic of his new-found spirituality and his assertion of religious belief. The stony path winding towards the rainbow and the distance beyond may also have had a religious meaning to Grimshaw and the mountainous setting recalls imagery of the story of Moses’ ascent of Mount Sinai  for his covenant with God.

A Mountain Road, Flood Time was almost certainly painted in 1868, the same year that Grimshaw painted The Seal of the Covenant (Fig.1) (Leeds City Art Galleries) and its pair Ingleborough from under White Scar (Bradford Museum and Galleries). The former picture also includes the rainbow over a stony landscape and makes the religious connection more apparent with its title. It is difficult to place the exact location of A Mountain Road, Flood Time but it is possible that it depicts the opposite riverbank to The Seal of the Covenant, as some of the rock formations on the right side are similar.

Grimshaw is known to have made a painting expedition to the Lakes with his wife in 1868. A painting entitled The Artist Painting in the Lake District (Fig.2) (Sotheby’s, Belgravia, 20 June 1972, lot 92) almost certainly records the 1868 trip, showing Theodosia Grimshaw looking over the shoulder of her husband as he busily paints the vast landscape in front of him. This sketching trip also produced the watercolour The Vale of Newlands, Cumberland (private collection) and the fact that A Mountain Road, Flood Time is inscribed ‘Honister Series No 3’ suggests that to some extent it was conceived as part of a series of experimentations in capturing the ethereal nature of the area.

We can be certain that Grimshaw visited the Lake District as early as 1863 from the dating of Windermere (private collection), a beautiful picture with a remarkably detailed foreground of wild flowers and bracken. Other Lake District scenes dated 1864 and 1865 suggest return visits in those years, although it is likely that Grimshaw used photographs at this time to aid his paintings and may have used them to inform these pictures. A photograph album that once belonged to Grimshaw (now at Leeds City Art Gallery), contains images of Rydal Water, Windermere, Stickle Tarn, Borrowdale and Ambleside. These photographs certainly provided Grimshaw with the basis for at least two strikingly detailed Pre-Raphaelite paintings, Nab Scar, The Lake District of 1864 (collection of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber) and Blea Tarn, First Light, Langdale Pikes in the Distance of 1865 (private collection).  

A Mountain Road, Flood Time is painted in thin glazes of oil paint on paper, the liquidity of the medium allowing the artist to flood areas of the picture with transparent colour to create mottled textures - particularly effective in the depiction of the lichen-covered rocks. The choice of waterproof oil paint suggests that this picture may have been made out of doors within the landscape rather than in the studio from sketches or photographs. The discomfort and inconvenience of painting amid changing weather conditions was outweighed by the artist’s ability to capture a more spontaneous and truthful image of nature.

A Green and Pleasant Land: Two Centuries of British Landscape Painting

|
London