John Atkinson Grimshaw painted a series of views of suburban streets in London and Yorkshire from the 1870s onwards, and his greatest nocturnes in the 1880s, to which A Yorkshire Road, November dates. The streets are rarely deserted in these moonlit scenes, human activity embodied here by the horse drawn carriage rounding a bend in the road at center and a father and son walking hand in hand at right. It is late autumn and the trees are bare of their leaves, skeletal against the malachite of the sky, dusted with pink, and fracturing the chill, brilliant silvery light cast of the moon, the brightest element of the composition. As night falls, the elegant homes behind the stone moss-covered wall glow with the warmth of gaslight and firelight, a subtle contrast between the man-made golden light of domestic activity and the ethereal magnificence of the eternal moon, a juxtaposition Grimshaw relished articulating in paint to the envy of his contemporaries. After visiting Grimshaw's studio, James Abbott McNeill Whistler remarked "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).
Grimshaw's primary influence was from the Pre-Raphaelites and it was from their work that he took inspiration to seek to represent the differing moods of the seasons, weather and light, combining the tenor of the Romantic Poets with the gothic stillness of Victorian landscape painting. The way in which he has captured the realism of the wet leaf-strewn road is masterful and his atmospheric use of light was the result of endless study of its subtle nuances. Many of Grimshaw’s suburban street scenes are an amalgam of views in North Yorkshire, rather than a specific identifiable location. Solid and stoic houses stand hauntingly silent, enveloped in an alluring nostalgia for a golden age that seems to be both a part of a distant past and yet familiar enough to almost remember.