In Grimshaw's paintings he sought to depict the contrast of the man-made and the natural, opposing forces symbolic of the contrasts of the age of industrialisation when the natural world was tamed, restrained and confined like never before. There is also the contrast of the solidity of the built environment and the organic, unrestrained growth of the tree branches. In Late Autumn the notion of conclusion and decay is paramount, the end of the day when the sun sets, the end of the year as the trees are stripped of leaves and the end of the daily routine of the maid making her solitary way home carrying a basket. By flooding the scene with diffused pale golden light, Grimshaw celebrates the beauty of the close of day. By the 1880s Grimshaw's style was fully-formed and he was at the height of his artistic powers. Although he had widened the scope of his subjects, from the industrial clamour of his dock scenes and the bustling city streets of Liverpool, London and Leeds, the pictures that are perhaps the most evocative are the melancholic views of suburban roads lit by moonlight or the glowing light of the gloaming. Grimshaw clearly found the composition successful and worthy of further exploration and he continued to paint autumnal suburban street scenes almost until the end of his life. This last phase of Grimshaw's career was also a period of fervent artistic activity in which Grimshaw was still recovering from a not fully understood financial disaster that took place in 1879; family tradition suggests that Grimshaw had backed a considerable bill for a friend who defaulted. Grimshaw was forced to sell his large residence at Scarborough, the poetically named Castle-by-the-Sea and spent increasingly long periods away from home and his children. Despite the hardships he painted some of his most accomplished pictures which convey his ability to depict atmosphere with the aureate evening skies, the leafless, autumnal trees and only a solitary living presence, acting in perfect harmony to create the sense of stillness and calm at the time of the day when the sun is in its last phase. As the woman's daily chores are over and she returns home, the power of the sun in ebbing and the year is coming to a close. The cycle of life of the trees is in flux as they shed their leaves but the moss that grows in the margins of the road and the moss and lichens that swathe the stone walls, suggest the resilience of nature. Perhaps the time spent away from his family gave Grimshaw's paintings a more intense atmosphere of separation and melancholia.
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