Part 3: Project 3: Research Point: Traditional vs Contemporary Artists and the use of Viewpoints

John Atkinson-Grimshaw (1836 to 1893)

John Atkinson-Grimshaw was a self-taught English artist, who created pieces in the moonlight around the towns and docks of places such as Liverpool (as discussed below), Scarborough, Leeds and Glasgow, having a fondness for maritime subject matter.

Atkinson-Grimshaw had a very specific style which varied only ever so slightly throughout his lifetime and which he was always only ever trying to improve on.

These pieces really remind me of Nicholas Herbert’s works with their neutral, ‘unpretty’ colours used and their misty air really draws my attention. Again, there is a sense of foreboding within these pieces. I can imagine the boats gently rocking in the water and also unsavoury characters such as ‘Jack the Ripper’ stalking the streets, prowling for his next victim.

The fact the artist has used the same area with slightly different viewpoints is rather interesting to me. In each of the chosen pieces, Atikinson-Grimshaw shows us his scene from eye level right in the middle of the road. The people walking along the road and peering into the stores, as well as the carriages travelling down the road give the impression that the artist could possibly be a ghost, passed by invisibly unbeknownst to the public, quietly observing and recording events as they unfold.

Whilst all of these pieces were created around the Liverpool docks at around the same time of day, as well as each holding ‘Atkinson-Grimshaw’s ‘fingerprint’, they each hold their own stories and atmospheres. These pieces, I feel, could be mistaken for photographs owing to their attention to detail and realistic qualities. The buildings within the pieces are particularly helpful in my own studies with regard to their construction and how I can use them as guidelines for my own townscape exercises, removing the detail as they fade into the distance, as well as their reduction in size. I also really like the use of what appears to be moonlight in the sky and the lighting inside the shops. There is very clearly a vanishing point to the centre of two of the pieces where all seems to blur into grey but in very small amounts so as not to demand too much attention. This is also something I will consider in my own works. I really appreciate his traditional methods used and his way of creating pieces from an eye-level viewpoint, using mostly a one-point perspective, but also an atmospheric perspective as can be seen in the fading away of the buildings and other details in the background, almost fading into mist, which I find superb and definitely inspiring for my own pieces.

Georges Seurat (1859 to 1891)

Georges Seurat was a French post-impressionist artist whose main body of work was his paintings, but who also created pieces in conte crayon and who was the founder of Neo-impressionism, or ‘chromuluminarism’ as was the preferred term by Seurat.

The pieces chosen for my research needs show several houses portrayed in a dark, moody way which, again, appear to be seen from eye level from a one-point perspective for most parts, but also from a two-point perspective in others. There is a slight sense of atmospheric perspective in the pieces by the misty appearance seen also, but in a way almost opposite to that of Atkinson-Grimshaw who uses lighter colours, whereas Seurat appears to use darker colours to create the ‘mist’ effect.

Tacita Dean (1965 to Present)

Tacita Dean is a British artist who primarily works with film, however, she also enjoys exploring natural phenomena from the smallest of creations to works on a grand scale, such as the mountains shown below, created in chalk on a very large scale.

Dean uses (from what I can see) a mixture of horizon-level and worms’ eve view points in her work. I can see a majority of one-point perspective, but also some two-point perspective.

Whilst I really do appreciate Dean’s work, I do not find it appeals to me too much personally and question whether there is too much ‘excess space’ (for example the mass darker grey area to the right-hand side of the piece at Fig. 10. or the vast blackness at the bottom of Fig.7.) as noted by my tutor of my own work. This is something I believe I will consider further as to why this is not the case.

Dean’s ability to stay very delicate with her tonal changes is beautiful to behold, and the way the mountains contrast completely with the pure black background (Fig. 10.) works just as well. This really calls to mind my tutor’s comments regarding ‘patches of tone’ and I will bear these pieces in mind when carrying out this type of work.

Alternative Viewpoints

Birds’ Eye View

The birds’ eye view perspective is where an artist is positioned higher than eye level and so objects are seen as though from above. In this type of viewpoint, the bottom of the objects cannot usually be seen, the tops of items closer to the artist are larger, whereas the bottoms of the objects become smaller, with the vanishing point being much lower.

Fig. 11. Moline, R Birds Eye View (Unknown)

Worms’ Eye View

Opposite to the birds’ eye view is the worms’ eye view. In this perspective, the bottoms of images are much larger and the tops much smaller, with the vanishing point above the eye level. Again, in reverse to the previous perspective, the tops of objects cannot usually be seen.

Fig. 12. Lainé, M Worm’s Eye View (Unknown)

List of Illustrations

Fig. 1. Atkinson-Grimshaw, J (Unknown) Liverpool Docks Customs House and Salthouse Docks Liverpool [Painting] At: (Accessed on: 20 June 2016)

Fig. 2. Atkinson-Grimshaw, J (Unknown) Salthouse Dock, Liverpool [Painting] At: (Accessed on: 20 June 2019)

Fig. 3. Atkinson-Grimshaw, J (Unknown) Salthouse Docks, Liverpool [Painting] At: (Accessed on: 20 June 2019)

Fig. 4. Seurat, G () Approach to the Bridge at Courbevoie [Conté crayon] At: (Accessed on: 20 June 2019)

Fig. 5. Seurat, G (c.1881-2) House at Dusk [Conté crayon] At: (Accessed on: 20 June 2019)

Fig. 6. Seurat, G (c.1881-2) Landscape with Houses [Conté crayon] At: (Accessed on: 20 June 2019)

Fig. 7. Dean, T Fatigues, E [Chalk on blackboard] At: (Accessed on: 20 June 2019)

Fig. 8. Dean, T (Unknown) Landscape [Chalk on blackboard] At: (Accessed on: 20 June 2019)

Fig. 9. Dean, T (2012) Fatigues, F [Chalk on blackboard] At: (Accessed on: 20 June 2019)

Fig. 10. Dean, T (2012) Fatigues [Chalk on blackboard] At: (Accessed on: 20 June 2019)

Fig. 11. Moline, R (Unknown) Birds Eye View [Acrylic] At: (Accessed on: 28 June 2019)

Fig. 12. Laine, M (Unknown) Worm’s Eye View [Mixed media] At: graffmatt/19537-unique-contemporary-artwork-graffmatt-worm-s-eye-view.html (Accessed on: 20 June 2019)


John Atkinson Grimshaw. (Unknown) ‘Biography of John Atkinson Grimshaw’ [Online] At: (Accessed on: 24 June 2019)

Kochhar S, Culture Whisper. (2018) ‘Tacita Dean: Landscape, Royal Academy of Arts’ [Online] At: (Accessed on: 20 June 2019)

Poul Webb. (2012) ‘Georges Seurat – Part 1’ [Online] At: (Accessed on: 24 June 2019)

Royal Academy. (Unknown) ‘Leading artist Tacita Dean exhibits pioneering and poetic work in our new galleries. ‘ [Online] At: (Accessed on: 20 June 2019)

Tate. (Unknown) ‘Tacita Dean’ [Online] At: (Accessed on: 20 June 2019)

The Morgan Library and Museum. (Unknown) ” [Online] At: (Accessed on: 24 June 2019)

The National Gallery. (Unknown) ” [Online] At: (Accessed on: 24 June 2019)

Wikipedia. (2019) ‘Georges Seurat’ [Online] At: (Accessed on: 24 June 2019)

Wikipedia. (2019) ‘John Atkinson Grimshaw’ [Online] At: (Accessed on: 24 June 2019)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.