A Link Between Bombed Out! and Victorian Paintings of Liverpool’s Dock Road.
Liverpool Quay by Moonlight (1887)
I’m a massive fan of John Atkinson Grimshaw’s work.
For many years I’ve seen his paintings of Liverpool’s Dock Road (shown above and below) in books, articles and even pubs all over the UK. I’ve always thought they were magnificent examples of Victorian urban art, and they came across my path again when I was doing research for my Punk and New Wave Memoir, Bombed Out!.
In it, I describe my own night-time walks along the same Dock Road, almost 100 years after Grimshaw painted these scenes. Although in my case it was with perforated eardrums after watching Punk and New Wave bands in Liverpool city centre.
Born in 1836, Grimshaw was a Victorian-era artist renowned for his city night-scenes and landscapes. I also like him because, at the age of 24, to the dismay of his parents, he did the Punk thing and left his job as a clerk for a railway company, to pursue his passion and become a painter.
Grimshaw’s Liverpool Dock Road paintings are incredibly atmospheric and realistic. You can almost imagine standing there at dusk, smelling the river and the sea mixed with smog, looking through the gloom as night falls around you, as carriages bear down on the cobbled street.
The ships’ masts pressed so close to the Dock Road also gives some idea of how important the busy port was to the city back then.
Of course, a century later things had changed dramatically in Liverpool, especially along the same Dock Road, as the economic noose tightened around Liverpool and other British cities under the rule of Margaret Thatcher. That’s something I also deal with in the pages of Bombed Out!