Artists

John Atkinson Grimshaw – Silence

John Atkinson Grimshaw (6 September 1836 – 13 October 1893) was an English Victorian-era artist, a “remarkable and imaginative painter” known for his city night-scenes and landscapes. His early paintings were signed “JAG”, “J. A. Grimshaw”, or “John Atkinson Grimshaw”, though he finally settled on “Atkinson Grimshaw”.

John Atkinson Grimshaw was born 6 September 1836 in Leeds to David Grimshaw and his wife Mary. In 1856 he married his cousin Frances Hubbard (1835–1917). In 1861, at the age of 24, to the dismay of his parents, he left his job as a clerk for the Great Northern Railway to become a painter. He first exhibited in 1862, mostly paintings of birds, fruit and blossom, under the patronage of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society. He became successful in the 1870s and rented a second home in Scarborough, which became a favourite subject.

Several of his children, Arthur E. Grimshaw (1864–1913), Louis H. Grimshaw (1870–1944), Wilfred Grimshaw (1871–1937) and Elaine Grimshaw (1877–1970) became painters.

Grimshaw’s primary influence was the Pre-Raphaelites. True to the Pre-Raphaelite style, he created landscapes of accurate colour and lighting, vivid detail and realism, often typifying seasons or a type of weather. Moonlit views of city and suburban streets and of the docks in London, Leeds, Liverpool and Glasgow also figured largely in his art. His careful painting and his skill in lighting effects meant that he captured both the appearance and the mood of a scene in minute detail. His “paintings of dampened gas-lit streets and misty waterfronts conveyed an eerie warmth as well as alienation in the urban scene.”

Dulce Domum (1855), on whose reverse Grimshaw wrote, “mostly painted under great difficulties”, captures the music portrayed in the piano-player, entices the eye to meander through the richly decorated room, and to consider the still and silent young lady who is listening. Grimshaw painted more interior scenes, especially in the 1870s, when he worked under the influence of James Tissot and the Aesthetic Movement.

On Hampstead Hill is considered one of Grimshaw’s finest works, exemplifying his skill with a variety of light sources, in capturing the mood of the passing of twilight into night. In his later career his urban scenes under twilight or yellow streetlighting were popular with his middle-class patrons.

His later work included imagined scenes from the Greek and Roman empires, and he painted literary subjects from Longfellow and Tennyson—pictures including Elaine and The Lady of Shalott. (Grimshaw named his children after characters in Tennyson’s poems.)

In the 1880s, Grimshaw maintained a London studio in Chelsea, not far from the studio of James Abbott McNeill Whistler. After visiting Grimshaw, Whistler remarked that “I considered myself the inventor of Nocturnes until I saw Grimmy’s moonlit pictures.” Unlike Whistler’s Impressionistic night scenes Grimshaw worked in a realistic vein: “sharply focused, almost photographic”, his pictures innovated in applying the tradition of rural moonlight images to the Victorian city, recording “the rain and mist, the puddles and smoky fog of late Victorian industrial England with great poetry.”

Grimshaw’s paintings depicted the contemporary world but eschewed the dirty and depressing aspects of industrial towns. Shipping on the Clyde, a depiction of Glasgow’s Victorian docks, is a lyrically beautiful evocation of the industrial era. Grimshaw transcribed the fog and mist so accurately as to capture the chill in the damp air, and the moisture penetrating the heavy clothes of the few figures awake in the misty early morning.

Some artists of Grimshaw’s period, like Vincent van Gogh and James Smetham, left letters and documents recording their work and lives. Grimshaw left behind no letters, journals, or papers; scholars and critics have little material on which to base their understanding of his life and career.

Grimshaw died on 13 October 1893 of tuberculosis and is buried in Woodhouse Cemetery, (now called St George’s Fields), Leeds. His reputation rested on, and his legacy is based on, his townscapes. There was a revival of interest in Grimshaw’s work in the second half of the 20th century, with several important exhibitions devoted to it. A retrospective exhibition “Atkinson Grimshaw – Painter of Moonlight” ran from 16 April 2011 to 4 September 2011 at Mercer Art Gallery in Harrogate and subsequently in the Guildhall Art Gallery, London.

Arthur Heming – The Drama of the Forests: Romance and Adventure

Arthur Henry Howard Heming (January 17, 1870 – October 30, 1940) was a Canadian painter and novelist known as the “chronicler of the North” for his paintings, sketches, essays and books about Canada’s North.

Born in Paris, Ontario and raised in Hamilton, he studied in New York City and the Old Lyme Art Colony under Frank DuMond, and in London with the Welsh master Frank Brangwyn. For most of his life, Arthur Heming, “painter of the great white north”, painted in a monochrome scheme of black, white, and yellow tones, choosing this style at least nominally because of an early diagnosis of color blindness. These possibly self-imposed restrictions lasted inexplicably until the age of sixty, when a full, nearly technicolor palette suddenly splashed across his canvases. Thematically, he worked with scenes whose colors were appropriately blanched: winter hunting and trapping expeditions that he took for the Hudson Bay Company and alongside people of the First Nations. His narrow focus in painting mirrored his work as a traveler, novelist, and illustrator, and the commercial nature of his output certainly influenced the mixed reception he received in the art market. In Canada he existed as an outsider of both the trapping communities he traveled with in the north and of his peers in the fine art world. His best work is transcendent, calling to mind the rich velvety grayscale of Gerhard Richter’s realistic paintings, while his weakest work is the sort of mystic wolf lore that later became the vernacular of furry bedspreads and black crewneck sweatshirts. Heming was conflicted about both his place in his homeland and his status as an artist. This is perhaps why he was so eager to find an adopted home for many consecutive summers in a distinctively non-arctic landscape, a farming community on the Long Island Sound, Old Lyme Connecticut.

He was a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.

The Hemings emigrated from Bognor (Regis) England in the top half of the 19th century. Edward Francis Heming left Bognor and settled just outside Guelph, Ontario. on the Eramosa Line in 1832. He called the farm ‘Bognor Lodge’ and it is still there today in Heming ownership. The northern half of the farm was expropriated and flooded to make Guelph Lake.

The Heming family traces its ancestors back to King Harold Heming of Denmark, the last Viking king of Denmark, and the one who brought Christianity to Denmark. They eventually traveled through France and settled there having the town named ‘Heming’ after them. When France became Roman Catholic, they were/are Protestants, they emigrated again just across the English Channel to the seaside spa of Bognor.

Edward Heming had 5 sons in Canada West. One of them was Charles Heming and he became the postmaster of the small village of Sydenham. Because there was another growing town near Ottawa with the same name, Charles was asked to change the name of Sydenham. He changed it to ‘Bognor’ and it is there today. A tribute to the pioneering Canadian Heming family.

In a 1940 article on Heming in The Beaver, W.J. Phillips, a respected Canadian artist, quoted a profile on Heming from the art magazine The Connoisseur.
“Through his activities as traveler, hunter, illustrator, author and painter, he has acquired an international reputation. He possesses an astonishing vigorous style, the more unique because it owes nothing to any classified school or tradition, He revels in the dramatic incidents of field and forest, interpreting them in boldly emphasized patterns and in sweeping and strongly marked rhythms-the sense of which doubtless came to him through his observations of the movement of wild things against the northern background of snow and crystal-clear air.”
Phillips was right about Heming’s talents and abilities. He was wrong in one thing, however. He closed his article with, “At any rate he has many more years left him of active labor, for he is still strong and vigorous.” A month after the article appeared, Heming died.

Arthur Heming’s books –

The Drama Of The Forests
Spirit Lake
Arthur Heming at Internet Archive