Artist’s captivating moonlit masterpiece returns to Leeds
An atmospheric riverside scene created by one of the city’s most celebrated artists returns home after being acquired by the Leeds Art Gallery.
Reflections on the Aire – on strike was painted by Leeds-born John Atkinson Grimshaw in 1879, a rare example of one of his ‘moonlight’ scenes associated with a social message.
Showing a gloomy industrial cityscape with a solitary female figure contemplating the dark waters of the River Aire in Leeds, the painting is an important addition to the Leeds Art Gallery’s collection and its unrivaled holdings of works by Atkinson Grimshaw.
Alerted to the painting’s potential release after many years in a private collection, the gallery team worked with the Leeds Art Fund to secure the painting for future generations. The total cost of the acquisition was covered by the Leeds Art Fund through the generous support of the Hurst Bequest.
Gallery curator Nigel Walsh said: “It will be amazing to bring together this oil painting which shows Grimshaw’s painting with rare social realism with what we believe to be its companion ‘Reflections on the Thames’, made by Grimshaw the following year when he moved to London, which has been in the collection since 1900.”
Born in 1836 in a simple townhouse in Leeds, Atkinson Grimshaw was a self-taught artist who quit his job as a railway clerk and became one of the most singular and important artists of his time.
Highly imaginative and experimental, with a keen interest in photography, he was fascinated by how to capture in oil paint the various effects of nocturnal light, combining moonlight with gas and the new electric lighting at incandescence.
Gallery curator Nigel Walsh worked with industrial history curator John McGoldrick to research contemporary maps and establish the location of Grimshaw’s viewpoint in the painting, across the river from Hunslet .
Together they discovered that times were hard for industrial workers and strikes prevailed in early 1879 when Grimshaw painted the scene just along the river from where he was then living in Knostrop.
Councilor Jonathan Pryor, Leeds City Council’s Executive Member for Economy, Culture and Education, said: “John Atkinson Grimshaw’s stunning paintings have captured the dramatically changing face of Leeds as an emerging industrial city and , as we can see in this painting, his empathy for the plight of his fellow citizens.
“We are extremely fortunate to have such an extensive range of his work here in his hometown and to have this magnificent new addition join the world-class collection at Leeds Art Gallery.”
About Leeds Art Gallery
Founded in 1888, the Leeds Art Gallery has strong collections of 19th and 20and century British painting and sculpture, and a growing collection of 21st the art of the century, widely regarded as one of the best outside national collections. With half a million visitors each year, it is one of the city’s most visited attractions and all exhibits are free.
Alongside the extensive collection of paintings and sculpture, the gallery presents a dynamic program of temporary exhibitions which has featured exhibitions such as British Art Show 8 and its current exhibition of one of the greatest female artists of the 20th century, Eileen Agar. Known for its collection of modern British art in particular, the gallery endeavors to acquire works of art for its permanent collection with the help of agencies such as the Contemporary Art Society, The Art Fund, The Leeds Art Fund and central government grants, recent acquisitions include works by Alison Wilding, Edward Allington, Barbara Walker, Jade Montserrat, Simon Fujiwara and Becky Beasley. She regularly loans her collections to galleries around the world. The extensive sculpture collection, the most comprehensive of any regional collection, includes an extensive and unique archive; both are run in partnership with the Henry Moore Institute.
About the Leeds Art Fund
The Leeds Art Fund, established in 1912, as The Leeds Art Collections Fund, is one of the oldest friend support agencies in the country, with the aim of helping to develop gallery collections in Leeds, fully funded by subscriptions and legacy donations. legacies and donations. Membership is open to all (from £25 per year) (www.leedsartfund.org)