Friday, 2 September 2011

Painter of Moonlight...

.... Atkinson Grimshaw (1836-1893). If you are anywhere near Harrogate, North Yorkshire, you have until Sunday to catch this exhibition of his paintings at the Mercer Gallery. John Atkinson Grimshaw was a Victorian era painter from Leeds, best known for his moonlight & night-time scenes. I only heard of him from a friend this week, but after a quick scout about online and seeing that there would also be photography by moonlight from Liza Dracup, how could I resist!

Whitby Harbour

People often have the fixed idea of silver moonlight and never observe the varying hues cast through mist, rain and cloud... and some challenged Grimshaw's depictions of moonlight... but his detail & portrayal of light in his paintings are amazing, much more so in 'real life' than on computer.

Moonlight After Rain

Some of the paintings in this exhibition have a definite photo-realism to them, and he has been known to paint over photographs, and also to have projected images onto larger canvasses to ensure correct composition. Little is actually known about Atkinson Grimshaw... did he practice photography himself, or have someone else do that bit for him? I haven't dug very deep to find out if the answers are available.

Colour photography was in it's infancy during this period. According to a wiki-article here 
"Prior to the late 1890s, color photography was strictly the domain of a very few intrepid experimenters willing to build their own equipment, do their own color-sensitizing of photographic emulsions, make and test their own color filters and otherwise devote a large amount of time and effort to their pursuits."
Regardless of how big a part photographs played in his work, he was extremely skilful & they are stunning.... you could easily feel like stepping into the scene. Looking around, I found a blog "that's how the light gets in" that covers some interesting points in this post- mystery in the moonlight
Moonlight Over Wharfedale
~love this!

Running alongside the Atkinson Grimshaw exhibition, is "Chasing the Gloaming"  (one of Grimshaws paintings is 'In The Gloaming')... a body of work by photographer Liza Dracup, inspired by Grimshaw's paintings.

 River Wharfe, detail
~love this!!

Long exposures allow the camera to pick up images we can't actually see ourselves, giving them a mysterious quality... an ideal compliment to the paintings. 
“I take one extended exposure, which is in fact also many views in one – a linear, layered effect of fragments in time. I kept thinking of the differences and similarities between a photograph and a painting..." 

 Whitby, moon light

  ‘Moonlight is one of my working lights. As my eyes adjust I find more and more. I find colours that exist through photography, I am able to see the clouds moving, something we don’t pick up so easily unless we are looking purposefully… the exciting thing is not to know what the colour will look like until the print is made. In both painting and photography the end result is composed of a range of dyes, so in that way, photographs can be described as painterly.’
Comments from Liza and more about this project are in this article -here

Green Circle, Tree & Moon
photographs (c) Liza Dracup

Mmm... the mysterious moonlight! Well worth the visit.

Mercer Gallery exhibition details are here
John Atkinson Grimshaw- The Complete Works- here
Liza Dracup- here

and a video about Grimshaw, the exhibition & Liza talking about her photography...