We have a wonderful Laurence Stephen Lowry pencil and crayon drawing “People on a Promenade” which epitomises many key painterly attributes which meant most to Lowry himself. Whilst there are a number of characters, all seem isolated and Lowry has deliberated long and hard as to what to include an exclude in the work. The provenance on the reverse is as stunning as the drawing itself; coming originally from the Laurence Ives collection. Ives was a psychologist and close personal friend of the artist. The work is in excellent condition and measures H 9.75 inches x W 11.75 inches (H24.5cms x W30cms) and available £52750 plus ARR subject to prior sale. (Item 136).
Laurence Stephen Lowry was born in leafy Stretford, Manchester in 1887 and was the only child of Robert and Elizabeth Lowry. He attended a local school in Victoria Park and started drawing at the age of eight and in 1903 began private painting classes which marked the start of a part-time education in art that was to continue for twenty years.
Due to parental financial concerns Lowry moved to Pendlebury (Salford) in 1909 and remained there for about 40 years. Initially he was not very happy and pretty well ignored his locality until in 1916 whilst waiting to catch a train he became interested in workers leaving the Acme Spinning Company Mill and it marked a major turning point in his artistic career commenting that “All my material is on my doorstep”. His early training between 1905 and 1915 was at the Municipal College of Art, Manchester where he was taught by the French artist Adolphe Valette who introduced him to Impressionism. Despite the acknowledgement and compliments Lowry paid to Valette, he was unaffected by Valette’s impressionist technique and continued to develop a more realistic approach to his art. He also attended the Salford School of Art.
Alongside Lowry’s love of painting he became apprenticed as a clerk in the firm of Thos. Aldred & Son, Chartered Accountants Manchester in 1904 and also from 1905 became a claims clerk with General Accident where he was made redundant in 1910. He then joined The Pall Mall Rent Collection Agency as a clerk where he was to remain until his retirement in 1952. His desire to be considered a serious artist had led him to keep his professional and artistic life completely separate and it was not disclosed until after his death that he had worked for most of his life.
In 1919 Lowry exhibited three paintings at Annual Exhibition of The Manchester School of Fine Art and also entered the paintings in the Paris Salon.
By 1920 Lowry’s street scenes, peopled with workers, housewives and children set against a backdrop of industrial buildings and terraced houses, had become a central theme and his own individual trademark. He was often seen drawing on scraps of paper, produced from his pocket whilst walking the streets of Manchester and Salford. In the early 1920’s at his first public exhibition of 25 oils and 2 pastels nothing sold, but he gets some favourable press attention. Manchester Art Gallery notably purchased “An Accident” in 1926.
In his early factory scenes the focus is placed on the buildings and the atmosphere was often dull and dark. As his style developed the figures became more prominent and eventually he arrived at a marriage between the two where the figures and surroundings become the whole story.
The 1930’s to 1940 were a desolate time with the death of Lowry’s father in 1932 and then after several years being bed fast his mother who ruled her sons life. Lowry painted “The Bedroom Pendlebury” in memory of the long hours spent caring for her. During the 1930’s Lowry first visited the Northeast lured by the North Sea a great source of inspiration for him and a place he revisited for many decades basing himself in the 1960’s at a hotel on the sea front in Sunderland. During his war artist years he painted many desolate scenes and empty bombed out factories, mainly as mirrors of how he saw himself. At the end of the decade Lowry started to achieve some real success as an artist was exhibiting at The Royal Academy in London and he had very much established his own particular style. He had been encouraged by his teacher Bernard Taylor to try to make his figures and buildings stand out more and he began to experiment with setting them against a white background. He chose ‘flake white’, building up layer after layer on the canvas before painting the subject matter straight on top. He only used only five other colours: vermilion, Prussian blue, ivory, black and ochre, which he applied straight from the tube commenting that he was a simple man who used simple materials. In 1939 Lowry has his first solo exhibition in London at Alex Reid & Lefevre Gallery where there is a large crowd national press attention and a significant number of sales with critical acclaim from Eric Newton to support the catalogue. Subsequently The Tate Gallery purchase Dwellings, Orsdall Lane, Salford 1927 for £15 and Lowry is so pleased by this that he donated his preliminary drawing to the gallery as a gift.
As modernisation of the industrial north took hold in the mid-1950s Lowry lost interest in his surroundings and now concentrated almost entirely on figures silhouetted against a white background. The figures portrayed loneliness even when there were a few together, harking back to the solitude felt by Lowry himself. Some of his most powerful pictures of which he felt most strongly are the lonely figures, down and outs and seascapes, which mattered to him far more than the Industrial scenes. Lowry’s figures would be standing on a hint of a pavement or near a ghost of a wall, but frequently they were simply suspended in time and space. He continued to sketch and closely observe his subjects and his works from this period capture the essence of Northern people young and old alike each imparting an individual character.
He was awarded an honorary MA at Manchester University in 1945, and Doctor of Letters in 1961, elected to the Royal Academy in 1962, and given freedom of the City of Salford in 1965 – many other honours followed later. He lived in Mottram until he died of pneumonia in 1976 just months before a major retrospective at The Royal Academy which broke all attendance records for a 20th century artist. The Lowry Centre in Salford Quays hold a major collection of his work and The Tate held a major exhibition of his work in June 2013. He is recognised as one of the greatest artists of 20th century and despite critical acclaim for his work during the second half of his life, he never forgot the lack of recognition that he had received initially and he carried with him the feeling of isolation and rejection throughout his career. He refused the offer of a knighthood, as well as numerous other honours, and remained disillusioned with the art world despite the lavish praise that came his way. His paintings and drawings are now included in most important private and public collections worldwide.
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