JOHN ATKINSON GRIMSHAW
Shipping on the Clyde, 1881
Oil on board, 30.5 x 51 cm
Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection on loan to Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid
John Atkinson Grimshaw's depictions of the docks of Victorian Britain are lyrically beautiful evocations 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.
Grimshaw contrasted the different light sources in his paintings, using the moon, the gaslights from the shop interiors, the street and vehicle lamps to variegate the pattern of reflections on the rain-drenched pavement and roads.
Glasgow's commercial prosperity dates from the 17th century when the port on the River Clyde began importing tobacco, sugar, cotton and other goods. Due to its location in the west of the country, Glasgow was well positioned to then re-export a large percentage of these goods to France, Germany, Italy, Holland, Norway and the West Indies and America. In the 19th century, in response to employment opportunities in the dockyards and the railways, the population of Glasgow grew rapidly going from a population of 77,000 in 1801 to 420,000 in 1861.
John Atkinson Grimshaw's paintings depict the modern world, but manage to escape the depressing, dirty reality of the northern industrial towns. His paintings display visually the verbal descriptions found in 19th-century novels, with an abundance of texts dedicated to the night, such as Bleak House by Charles Dickens.
In the following photograph you can see how Glasgow’s port on the
Clyde has changed in the present day: