Silvery Moonlight by John Atkinson Grimshaw – £90,000 at Tennants.

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Christie’s New York set the highest price for the Leeds-born artist in eight years when a painting of a fairy in a woodland landscape made a hefty hammer price of $540,000 (£479,650) at the sale of the Ann & Gordon Getty Collection in October.

A few weeks later, Tennants (22% buyer’s premium) posted the highest price in the English regions for at least five years when a more trademark moonlit urban scene sold for a mid-estimate £90,000 at its latest British, European and Sporting art sale on November 12.

Silvery Moonlight, a 15¾ x 23½in (40 x 60cm) signed oil on canvas from 1882, had many of the features that buyers look for in an Atkinson Grimshaw: a horse-drawn cart on a damp street, atmospheric evening light and a brooding sense of melancholy.

It was one of a large number of such pictures that the artist produced - in part due to the fact that he had to paint constantly to make a enough money to support his large family, as well as to sustain his rather opulent taste in furniture, textiles and Chinese porcelain for his richly decorated home, Knostrop Hall near Leeds.

The picture offered in Leyburn, North Yorkshire, had provenance to both London dealer Richard Green as well as the Bailey family who own engineering firm NG Bailey. It was kept at the latter’s premises at Denton Hall, West Yorkshire, until the property was sold earlier this year. The majority of the collection from Denton Hall will be offered at Tennants in March 2023.

Silvery Moonlight was in a good state of preservation with only fine and delicate retouching visible under UV light. Against a £80,000-120,000 estimate at the November 12 auction, it drew decent interest and sold to a private buyer from the north of England. The £90,000 price, while not exceptional for an Atkinson Grimshaw, was among the highest for the artist at an auction outside London in the last decade.

Notable duo

Two further Victorian pictures at the Tennants sale made notable sums despite selling on low estimate.


Going to the Lodge by Richard Ansdell – £40,000 at Tennants.

Going to the Lodge, a 2ft 6in x 4ft 4in (75cm x 1.33m) signed oil on canvas by Richard Ansdell (1815-85) was a Royal Academy exhibit from 1861.

The picture was something of a mixture of a landscape, a sporting picture and a genre scene. It was painted at a time when the artist began focusing on the Scottish Highlands as his primary subject matter, something which remained for the rest of his career (the artist would spend four months a year in his Highlands lodge recording the dramatic landscape and the daily lives of its inhabitants).

Pitched at £40,000-60,000, the painting at Tennants was knocked down to a private buyer. Despite selling at the lower end of expectations and coming in some way behind the strong six-figure sums that the best works by the artist have made in the past, again this was one of the higher prices for Ansdell outside the London rooms.

Herring’s Highlands


Highland Gamekeeper by John Frederick Herring Snr – £30,000 at Tennants.

A large picture with a similar subject by John Frederick Herring Snr (1795-1865) titled Highland Gamekeeper sold at £30,000 to a UK private buyer. Signed and dated 1854, the 3ft 11in x 5ft 11in (1.2m x 1.81m) oil on canvas was estimated at £30,000-50,000, a reduction from the £60,000-100,000 pitch it had when failing to sell at Christie’s in 2013.

Having also previously appeared at Sotheby’s London in 1986 as well as Sotheby’s New York in 1987, the work seemed to underline the importance of market freshness in the Victorian sector.

Overall, the Tennants sale posted a total hammer of £315,070 from the 130 lots.