It has often been said that the real subject for Grimshaw in such compositions is moonlight and how it can transform the mundane into a poetic vision giving contemporary scenes the mellowness of time. Hence the appeal to the artist's contemporaries and to the modern viewer. In fact, after visiting Grimshaw, James Abbott McNeill Whister remarked that "I considered myself the inventor of Nocturnes until I saw Grimmy's moonlit pictures." (as quoted in Lionel Lambourne, Victorian Painting, London, 1999, p. 112). Grimshaw pursued the genre of nocturnes with determination, finding a means of evoking familiar settings with poetry and poignancy.
By 1886, when The Tryst was painted, Grimshaw had established the view of a tree-lined suburban street with walled gardens and a solitary house as a frequent subject until his death in 1893.
Grimshaw is at the height of his creative powers here, not just in his unique color harmonies but in the extraordinary skill shown by his painting of the interlocking branches and twigs, the cracks and shadows on the weathered wall and the reflections of moonlight off of the wet earth, trodden by wheels and hoofs.
Although many of the artist's paintings are titled, in the present case it imparts a narrative instead of a purely illustrative description as in such paintings as Autumn Glory or Golden Autumn. Here the viewer is invited to ponder on the figures' involvement with each other, thus linking it to the popular Victorian genre of the "problem picture."
What might appear as a sombre subject is turned by Grimshaw into a nostalgic image of the past.
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