Drawing inspiration from mid 19th Century art movements like The Pre-Raphaelites, and from late 18th Century Romanticism, John Atkinson Grimshaw created indelible images that are imbued with Victorian Era ideals. Innocence. Romance. Beauty. These simple aesthetic tropes of the times are permeated throughout Grimshaw’s work. Whether depicting Gothic manors or urban streets lit by moonlight, faeries soaring through the night or ships in the harbor, Grimshaw’s paintings are almost photo-realistic and yet simultaneously elevated by his imaginative lighting and saturated by his use of Earth tones. Little is known about Grimshaw as a man, and little more is known about him as an artist, but his work on the other hand is quite recognizable even to those outside the art community. Our modern notion of what Dickensian London was like has been greatly influenced by Grimshaw’s work, which itself is just as timeless and unforgettable as the writings of Dickens.
When it comes to Gothic imagery, there are few artists so fundamental in the creation of an aesthetic as Caspar David Friedrich. Comprised of desolate landscapes, decrepit monasteries, haunted cemeteries, and gnarled forests, his iconic and often operatic paintings conjure up visions of German Romanticism. At once his compositions are simple in their depiction of the majesty of nature as it dwarfs all human endeavors, but his work is also far more complex than that, employing subtle symbolism and allegory in landscapes to comment on what were then political, social, and religious concerns of his time. Are the duo who appear to be admiring the moon, in fact, conspirators who chose this moonlight rendezvous for a clandestine meeting? Whose is the disembodied spirit that hovers above the uneven grounds of the graveyard? What do the trio of companions spot over the cliffs of Rügen? Friedrich’s paintings are more than epic depictions of crumbling abbeys and ancient trees. They are visual journeys into the heart of the past.