Lot 10
  • 10

John Atkinson Grimshaw

250,000 - 350,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • John Atkinson Grimshaw
  • A November Night
  • signed Atkinson Grimshaw and dated 1874 (lower left); inscribed A November Night, signed Atkinson Grimshaw, and dated 1874 (on the stretcher)
  • oil on canvas
  • 30 1/8 by 25 in.
  • 76.5 by 63.5 cm


Sale: Bonhams, London, March 21, 2006, lot 96, illustrated
Richard Green, London
Acquired from the above

Catalogue Note

In A November Night, the brilliant light of an unseen moon casts shadows along a quiet road, bringing its depths and texture into stark relief. It is an exquisitely crafted painting, exhibiting all of the hallmarks of John Atkinson Grimshaw's mature style and the pleasure he took in depicting a street built for the emerging middle classes of Victorian England. For Grimshaw, the formal and poetic thrust of the composition is undeniably moonlight and its power to transform the mundane into a dream-like vision, giving contemporary scenes the mellowness of time. The very qualities that appealed to the artist's contemporaries continue to entrance modern viewers. In fact, after visiting Grimshaw's studio, James Abbott McNeill Whistler 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). While many of Whistler’s best-known nocturnes feature the River Thames, he painted a series of street scenes in the 1870s. Using his suburban neighborhood of Chelsea as his subject, he experiments with the darkness of night and the warm glow of gas light. The pictorial relationship between Grimshaw’s compositions and, for example, Whistler’s Nocturne in Grey and Gold: Chelsea Snow (fig. 1, 1876, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts), is undeniable. Like Whistler, Grimshaw pursued the genre of nocturnes with determination and by 1874, when A November Night was painted, he had established the view of a tree-lined suburban street as a frequent subject (see lot 37). In the present work, Grimshaw is at the height of his creative powers, 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.

With the single figure waiting by the road, what might evoke a somber subject is turned by Grimshaw into a nostalgic and enchanting scene.