Atkinson Grimshaw Painting Makes £240,000 at Bonhams in London

autumn-afterglow.jpgBonhams sold one of Atkinson Grimshaw’s finest paintings, a view of Headingley in Leeds, on 22nd April in a sale of 19th Century Paintings and Drawings at their Bond Street salerooms. The picture, `Autumn Afterglow’, was estimated to sell for £120,000 to £180,000 but outstripped that to make £240,000.

John Atkinson Grimshaw is perhaps Leeds’s best-known and best- loved artist. Born in 1836, he was a self-taught painter who created a market in twilight dock scenes, views of Leeds, and lanes dominated by rarely-identifiable grand Headingley homes.

Richard Hopkinson, Head of Pictures at Bonhams in Chester, who secured the painting for auction said: “I was very excited by this painting because of its quality and because it was fresh to market for the first time in 116 years, having been in the same family for generations, but I was still surprised by the price it fetched.”

The sale of 19th Century Pictures and Drawing performed strongly across the board reaching a total of £1.8m and a selling rate of 76 per cent. Besides the Grimshaw there were a number of artists whose work outperformed their pre-sale estimates. A stunning image, Lesbia and her Sparrow by Sir John Poynter (1836-1919) achieved £180,000 against an estimate of £60,000 to £80,000. Antonio Leto’s On the Megellina Shore sold for £132,000 with an estimate of £35,000 to £45,000. An Edward Ladell expected to make £20,00 to £30,000 achieved £50,400. A Charles Spencelayh titled Patience, estimated to sell for £15,000 to £20,000 sold for £62,400. The Finnish painter, Ferdinand von Wright’s A Ural Owl perched on a branch made £36,000 against an estimate of £10,000 to £15,000. And an Albert Goodwin picture, London from Tower Bridge, sold at £43,000, makes it the most expensive watercolour by Goodwin ever to be sold at auction.

Charles O’Brien, Head of 19th Century Pictures at Bonhams says: “Continental pictures performed particularly well, helped by the strength of the Euro which brought out Contental buyers in strength.”

But it was the Atkinson Grimshaw picture that was without doubt the sale highlight. The painting captures the essence of light and chill on a Headingley lane, as the figure of a woman walks between stone walls towards an impressively grand Yorkshire villa. The golden glow of Autumn is combined with a sense of loss and decay of the oncoming winter.

This painting has remained in the family of the descendants of Councillor William Metcalf since it was painted in 1883 and has never been seen in public before. The family story relates that Councillor Metcalf knew and liked Grimshaw’s work and was only too happy to take three paintings from the artist in lieu of rent.

Councillor Metcalf may well have been aware of the three paintings of Roundhay Park commissioned ten years earlier in 1872 by the Corporation of Leeds. The City needed some paintings of the park to promote the Parliamentary Improvement Bill required in order to open Roundhay to the public. Atkinson Grimshaw was selected to paint the views, which he interestingly did, not by daylight but by night.

This painting received by Councillor Metcalf was passed down through his family and received its first public airing on the pre- sale view days.