Richard Green, London;
'In a career of thirty years Grimshaw built up a reputation as an artist who presented a vision of contemporary life which others chose to ignore. In his later years he appeared to be turning to new subjects presented in a different way with a lightness which may indicate a turning point.' (Alexander Robertson's introduction to an exhibition held by Richard Green, John Atkinson Grimshaw, 1989)
John Atkinson Grimshaw painted a series of autumnal street scenes throughout the 1880s, predominantly painted in and around Leeds. In these images of roads and lanes between high stone walls hiding mansions and villas from prying eyes, the scenes are deserted except for a solitary female figure making her way down a leaf and puddle strewn road. These paintings are perhaps the most evocative and typical of the artist, who was unrivalled in his depiction of the evening gloaming. The busy traffic of horses and carts bringing goods into the city from the outlying farms have left their impressions in the damp soil of the road, but most have long since departed and the gateways have been closed to the outside world. There is an emotive sense of stillness and calm which pervades these golden images of evening light. The subject is not a specific locality, but the effects of light upon a generic suburban street. Unlike the pictures of the great cities of Britain and the fishing villages that Grimshaw painted, there are no landmarks in In the Golden Glow of Autumn to place the exact location and the picture is therefore a more abstract summary of glorious light and autumnal splendour. The sense of mystery evoked by the appearance of the lonely road is further enhanced by the anonymity of the scene with the exact location withheld. The Victorians had a huge appetite for such romantic intrigue and it was a prevalent theme in the novels, plays and poetry of the age. Grimshaw himself was inspired by the writings of Wordsworth, Browning, Shelley and in particular Tennyson. Alexander Robertson sums up thus; 'A few lines from Tennyson's 'Enoch Arden' seem to demonstrate this most succinctly:
'The climbing street, the mill, the leafy lanes,
The peacock-yew tree and the lonely Hall,
The horse he drove, the boat he sold, the chill
November dawns and dewy glooming downs,
The gentle shower, the smell of dying leaves'
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