Grimshaw was fascinated by modern industry, frequently painting the commercial centers of Leeds, Liverpool, Glasgow, Scarborough and Hull. His first moonlit harbor scene, Whitby Harbour by Moonlight, was painted in 1867 and it became a recurring subject for the artist, synonymous with his name. As seen in the present work, he uses moonlight to transform the sooty reality of the industrial city into an image of romance and mystery as air, thick with smoke, becomes an atmospheric mist enveloping the dark figures. The gleam reflects off cobble stones, glistening with recently fallen rain and illuminated by the golden lights of the shop windows. Grimshaw was also a brilliant technician, and his varied mark-making and skill as a draftsman and colorist contributes to the present work's convincing atmosphere; in the foreground, he has mixed sand with pigment, adding a three-dimensionality to the street, while the distant buildings become increasingly abstract, creating a convincing depth to the composition, punctuated by gas lamps and a brilliant emerald beam shining from the carriage in silhouette.
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