John Atkinson Grimshaw’s Career As A Painter

John Atkinson Grimshaw was born in Leeds, England. He studied art at the Royal Academy Schools and became an accomplished landscape painter. His works are very popular today because of their realistic detail and beautiful coloring. He often depicted landscapes lit by gas, kerosene, and other artificial lights, giving his paintings a sense of depth that made them seem more real than any other artist’s work at the time.

John Atkinson Grimshaw was a Victorian artist who painted beautiful paintings of cities and the moonlight reflecting on the water. He was born in Leeds, England, and attended art school at the Royal Academy in London. After graduating, he began working as an illustrator for magazines like Punch magazine and Harper’s Weekly, then transitioned into painting full-time around 1875 when he moved to Hampstead Heath, where he lived until his death on January 15th, 1930 at age 73.

Grimshaw’s most famous work is “The Thames” from 1894, which shows an aerial view of London with gas lighting shining off its dockside piers into the night sky above them—an early example of modern street lighting technology.

Artificial Lights Often Lighted His Landscapes

He often depicted landscapes lit by gas, kerosene, and other artificial lights. One of his most well-known masterpieces is “The Lights of the City,” exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1878. It shows a city street lit by gaslight at night time and depicts a woman walking down it with her head held high, looking straight ahead with pride as if she were on her way to some important event or meeting.

Pre-Raphaelites were a significant influence on Grimshaw. He produced landscapes that were true to the Pre-Raphaelite aesthetic, with correct color, lighting, vivid detail, and realism, frequently typifying seasons or particular weather. His paintings frequently featured moonlit scenes of the city and suburban streets and the docks in London, Hull, Liverpool, and Glasgow. His meticulous painting and talent for lighting effects allowed him to capture the appearance and mood of a scene perfectly.

His “paintings of dampened gas-lit streets and misty waterfronts conveyed an eerie warmth as well as alienation in the urban scene.”

Blackman Street, London – John Atkinson Grimshaw

Grimshaw Loved Painting Landscapes and Portraits

In addition to being a painter, Atkinson Grimshaw was also an artist and writer. He painted portraits and landscapes, but he also painted other things:

  • Animals, insects, and flowers.
  • Still lives.
  • Scenes from mythology or literature.
  • Even architectural views (though these were often based on sketches by others).

He enjoyed painting portraits so much that he eventually turned his hand to writing biographies of artists such as Rembrandt van Rijn or El Greco. His works include “The Portrait Gallery” (1827), and this Atkinson painting describes famous figures from history who have been depicted in paintings over the centuries. 

“The Picture Gallery” (1828) contains thumbnail sketches of 250 works by some of Britain’s most famous artists from the past 400 years. And “Illustrations from Picturesque Views in Great Britain” (1848) features photographic illustrations alongside text describing each location where he took them.

Dutch Painters Largely Inspired his Work

Rembrandt is a prime example of Dutch influence on John Atkinson Grimshaw’s paintings. The Dutch painters Rembrandt, Hals, and Vermeer were essential influences on his works. He was inspired by the Dutch landscape painters of the 17th century, who painted in a naturalistic style but were not quite a realist. This allowed them to create an atmosphere that stressed mood rather than exact detail or accuracy. 

These artists often used light rather than shade as their primary source of color; this allowed them to capture different aspects of nature using one painting (for example, light from overhead). He also admired their use of light because it allowed viewers to see things differently than they would otherwise—that is, if you look at paintings by these artists, you’ll find that some parts are darker than others. 

This effect can be seen when looking at how Atkinson Grimshaw uses shadows or highlights throughout his paintings: sometimes, there’s only one spot where these colors meet up; other times, there might be two or three spots where they combine into something new altogether.

Reflections on the Thames, Westminster – John Atkinson Grimshaw

His Works Are Still Displayed At Museums

John Atkinson Grimshaw’s paintings are still on display in museums, including:

  • The National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. has one of his most famous works, “The Battle of Trafalgar,” painted in 1833 and showing Admiral Horatio Nelson standing at the helm of his ship HMS Victory as it takes on enemy ships during the battle that took place off Cape Trafalgar on October 21st, 1805.
  • The Tate Gallery (London), where you can see a watercolor painting called “Beachy Head” from 1858-59. This depicts a view over Beachy Head near Eastbourne in East Sussex County, England, looking out towards the English Channel with cliffs rising high into clouds behind them; it’s considered one of Grimshaw’s best works because it captures so much nature within just one frame.


John Atkinson Grimshaw was a Victorian artist who painted beautiful paintings of cities and the moonlight reflecting on the water. He often depicted landscapes lit by gas, kerosene, and other artificial lights. His paintings were usually of working-class people in industrial cities at night. He was born in Leeds, England. 

He enjoyed painting portraits and landscapes. His works have been featured at many museums worldwide, including the Tate Gallery in London, where one can see his paintings hanging alongside those of other famous masters like Rembrandt. 

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