Being a native of the city of Leeds, Grimshaw and his family based themselves at Knostrop Hall, situated on the eastern edge of the city, and later located themselves near to Scarborough around the years in which this painting was completed. The surrounding Yorkshire countryside provided endless inspiration for the artist and a number of the winter, nocturnal scenes of this particular compositional motif display a lane, flanked by bare trees, disappearing off into the distance with a partly hidden mansion located in the background. A solitary figure is a typical addition within the scene, however Grimshaw has chosen an unusual arrangement in this painting through the inclusion of a man with his dog walking away from an isolated female figure, highlighted by the full moon in the upper right corner. This arrangement allows for speculation as to the outcome of this private moment, and contributes to the intriguing nature of this narrative.
Grimshaw’s masterful portrayal and understanding of light and weather within these settings is clearly exhibited in this scene. The awareness of the effects of moonlight reflecting off the clouds and landscape generates a sense of realism as well as atmosphere and mood, thus producing a work essentially romantic in tone and encompassing certain stylistic features of the Pre-Raphaelite movement. Additionally, the attention to detail towards the silhouetted, interlacing branches and the cool colour palette contrasted by the warm glow that escapes from the window of the distant house highlights the artist’s ability to create a remarkable atmospheric and detailed setting.
The sense of mystery and intrigue that results from the solitary female and the departing man with his dog, together with the effects of the winter moonlit scene contributes to the nostalgic atmosphere conjured up by Grimshaw. The initially perceived simplistic image of a countryside shrouded in moonlight develops into an evocative romantic subject that became so sought after and admired amongst the Victorians during the 1870s, and subsequently collectors of the present day.
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