Grimshaw’s earliest influence was the Pre-Raphaelites.
True to the Pre-Raphaelite style, he created landscapes of accurate
colour and lighting, vivid detail and realism, often typifying seasons
or a type of weather. Moonlit views of city and suburban streets and of
the docks in London, Leeds, Liverpool and Glasgow also figured largely
in his art. The focus on atmosphere, and lack of moral message or historical reference allies his work to some extent with the Aesthetic Movement.
His careful painting and his skill in lighting effects meant
that he captured both the appearance and the mood of a scene in minute
detail. His “paintings of dampened gas-lit streets and misty waterfronts conveyed an eerie warmth as well as alienation in the urban scene.”
Later in life his colour palette shifted from dark blues to golden
yellows, and towards the end of his life were hints of a change in
artistic direction, with looser brushwork influenced by his friend James
Abbott McNeill Whistler, who was quoted saying “I considered myself the inventor of Nocturnes until I saw Grimmy’s moonlit pictures.”