Lot 30
  • 30

John Atkinson Grimshaw

250,000 - 350,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • John Atkinson Grimshaw
  • The Docks at Liverpool
  • signed Atkinson Grimshaw (lower right); signed ATKINSON GRIMSHAW and inscribed Liverpool (on the reverse) 
  • oil on panel
  • 12 by 18 in.
  • 30.5 by 45.7 cm


Richard Green, London (1995)
Private Collection, California 
Private Collection, Louisiana 


The following condition report was kindly provided by Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc.: This work is in beautiful condition. The panel is flat and unreinforced on the reverse. It shows no instability. The work is clean. No retouches are evident. The work should be hung as is.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

The Salthouse Docks in Liverpool are among John Atkinson Grimshaw's favorite subjects and his paintings provide a remarkable record of the ambition of this proud city. Designed by Thomas Steers, England's first major civil engineer, the architect of the world's first wet dock and Mayor of Liverpool, the docks marked the beginning of Liverpool's transformation into one of England's major ports of the nineteenth century. The view here is of The Strand, once the commercial center of the city, with the Old Customs House looking out across the River Mersey and the ships that were the source of its wealth. These paintings would have appealed greatly both to the public and to his Northern patrons, and when one was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1885, the Art Journal wrote that the artist "invests the subject with something akin to poetry" (Alexander Robertson, Atkinson Grimshaw, London, 1988, p. 73).  

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.