Lot 3
  • 3

John Atkinson Grimshaw

200,000 - 300,000 GBP
253,250 GBP
bidding is closed


  • John Atkinson Grimshaw
  • Old Scarborough, Full Moon, High Water
  • signed and dated l.r.: 1879 +/ Atkinson Grimshaw
  • oil on canvas


Christie's, 5 March 1971, lot 54;
Richard Green, London

Catalogue Note

'Daylight effects had little attraction for him; the details were too hard and staring; and it was the mystery of the murky air, the tender hues of the dawn, or the mellow light of the moon thrown on all beneath it, a silvery radiance, that appealed to him most deeply... It may be said without exaggeration that he left no successor behind him.' GRIMSHAW'S OBITUARY NOTICE

The present picture is among the most elaborate and most beautiful of the many views of Scarborough that Grimshaw painted. It shows the tranquil South Bay at dusk beneath a silvery haloed full moon with the lamp-lights of the old fishing cottages reflected in the calm waters of the sheltered harbour. The way in which Grimshaw has painted the play of moonlight on the rooftops of the houses is particularly accomplished and the glimmer of moonlight on the water is superb. On the skyline, directly below the moon, is the shadowy form of the fourteenth century chapel of St. Mary, the parish church for Scarborough where Anne Bronte was buried in 1849. Grimshaw's former home lay less than a few hundred yards behind the churchyard of St. Mary's but is not visible in the present picture as it was over the headland.  To the right of St. Mary's, on the steep hillside overlooking the town, is the imposing ruin of Scarborough Castle built by William le Gros, Earl of Albemarle during the reign of Henry I. On the quayside a young woman sits with her legs dangling towards the water as she idles away her time, in contrast to the strenuous work of the dock-hands hauling ropes to moor the large sailed-vessel for the night. Scarborough's economy was in transition during the second decade of the nineteenth century. The opening of the Grand Hotel in 1867 paved the way for tourism but this new prosperity came at the expense of the traditional fishing industry and in the present work Grimshaw painted the workers and a woman watching them, perhaps a visitor to the town. As Alexander Robertson observes; 'Grimshaw combines these two kinds of activity, the watching and the working, in a composition which gives him an opportunity to portray different light effects, natural and man-made.  Such paintings are the essence of Grimshaw, who presents to the spectator a scene of calm observation where the subject is given a poetic overlay by the use of light, usually moonlight.' 

Scarborough was a town that Grimshaw knew intimately having lived there from 1876, painting the town on numerous occasions and from a variety of perspectives.  He rented a house from Thomas Jarvis, a local brewer who was Grimshaw's patron as well as his landlord. The house was named 'The Castle by the Sea' after the poem by Henry Longfellow.