Grimshaw probably first visited the Lake District in 1863 when he painted Windermere (Sotheby's, London, 6 November 1996, lot 300) and other Lake District scenes are dated 1864 and 1865. It is likely that Grimshaw also used photographs to aid his paintings at this time. A photograph album that once belonged to Grimshaw (now at Leeds City Art Gallery), contains images of Rydal Water, Windermere, Stickle Tarn, Borrowdale and Ambleside. These photographs certainly provided Grimshaw with the basis for at least two strikingly detailed Pre-Raphaelite paintings, Nab Scar, The Lake District of 1864 (collection of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber) and Blea Tarn, First Light, Langdale Pikes in the Distance of 1865 (private collection). Grimshaw made another painting expedition to the Lakes with his wife in 1868. A painting entitled The Artist Painting in the Lake District (Sotheby’s, Belgravia, 20 June 1972, lot 92) almost certainly records the 1868 trip, showing Theodosia Grimshaw looking over the shoulder of her husband as he busily paints the vast landscape in front of him. This sketching trip also produced sketches for the watercolour The Vale of Newlands, Cumberland (private collection), A Mountain Road, Flood Time (Sotheby’s, London, 22 May 2014, lot 130), Looking towards Wasdale, the Lake District (Christie's, South Kensington, 23 March 2016, lot 70), Ingleborough from under White Scar (Bradford Museum and Galleries) and its pair The Seal of the Covenant (Leeds City Art Galleries) which is very similar to the present picture.
The arc of a rainbow in A Mountain Road, Flood Time, The Seal of the Covenant and the present painting is not simply a picturesque detail, or a reflection of Grimshaw’s interest in fleeting meteorological lighting effects. It is a symbol of Heavenly power, of the Lord’s presence on earth, intended 'to act as metaphor for God's pact with humanity.' (A. Robertson, Atkinson Grimshaw, 1996, p.41) The geologically-studied landscape may have a deeper religious symbolism as the science of geology was a controversial subject in the mid-nineteenth century when it was used to try to both prove and disprove the existence of God. Grimshaw and his family had recently converted to Roman Catholicism and therefore the rainbow is symbolic of his new-found spirituality and his assertion of religious belief.
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