The European Art Sale

The European Art Sale

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 238. Roundhay Lake.

John Atkinson Grimshaw

Roundhay Lake

Lot Closed

May 20, 06:36 PM GMT


70,000 - 90,000 USD

Lot Details


John Atkinson Grimshaw


1836 - 1893

Roundhay Lake

signed Atkinson Grimshaw (lower right); titled Roundhay Lake/ (from Castle), signed and dated Atkinson Grimshaw 5.93. and inscribed with artist's device (on the reverse)

oil on canvas

canvas: 18 by 27 in.; 46 by 68.5 cm

framed: 24 by 33 in.; 60.9 by 83.8 cm.

Sale, Sotheby's, London, March 30, 1994, lot 89
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

'...the lake is seen from the ivy fringed battlement of the ruined tower, and appears in the deceptive haze to stretch unbroken to the horizon; the interlocking boughs of the near trees, in their winter nakedness, being carefully painted; while the more distant clumps are broadly mased in purple shadow.' 

Leeds Mercury describing a version of the present composition

The estate of Roundhay in Leeds was purchased by the businessman Thomas Nicholson in 1803. Eight years later he commissioned the architect John Clarke to design and build a new mansion at Roundhay. It took fifteen years before the Greek Revival house was completed with seventeen bedrooms and lavish entertaining rooms. The natural features of the property were developed to form an impressive country estate with a ravine, lake, waterfalls and woodland walkways. At the end of the three-quarter of a mile long drive Clarke designed a folly in the form of a medieval castle which had a wooden roof so that dinners could take place overlooking the glorious parkland. It was from the ramparts of this folly that Grimshaw painted the thirty-three acre lake which had been built in just two years by soldiers that had returned from the Napoleonic wars and thus named Waterloo Lake.

John Atkinson Grimshaw painted several views of Roundhay Park from 1872 onwards until his death. His first three paintings of the park were commissioned by a committee of the House of Lords in connection with the Leeds Corporation Improvement Bill. The Corporation of Leeds were intending to purchase Roundhay Estate following the death of Nicholson in 1871. Nicholson had no heir and the Corporation wished to buy the estate and make it a public park. The purchase was successful and the park was opened to the public on the 19th September 1872 by Prince Arthur. However, the Major of Leeds, John Barron, was severely criticized for investing in what was generally regarded to be a 'white elephant' as the park was far out of Leeds and not easily accessible.

It was the remote mystery of Roundhay that attracted Grimshaw who found in the wilderness of the park and the haunting beauty of its ruins the same enigmatic beauty he had painted in the lonely suburban streets and faded glories of manor gardens of Leeds, where ivy and dry leaves veil the golden landscape. The present painting is a sensitive and poetic example of Grimshaw's depictions at Roundhay, capturing the elongated Waterloo Lake. An earlier example painted in 1879 was sold at Christies, 8 November 1996, lot 47. Grimshaw loved the natural beauty of Roundhay but also recognized the ancient serenity of its woods, which in the thirteenth century had been the hunting grounds of the DeLacy family of Pontefract Castle.

Roundhay remains a public park and is now well regarded by the Leeds residents and the wildlife that is now protected within its boundaries. Flocks of mute swans still nest on Waterloo Lake as they did in Grimshaw's day and the scene has changed very little since Grimshaw painted it and since DeLacy rode through the trees hunting wild boar.