Laurence Stephen Lowry, RA, RBA, LG, NS

(1887 - 1976)

A House

Signed and dated, lower left:  L S LOWRY 1963
Oil on panel
17 x 12 in – 43.2 x 30.5 cm
Frame size
23¼ x 17⅞ in – 59 x 45.4 cm 

Tel.: +44 (0)20 7839 7693

Provenance

Alex Reid & Lefevre Ltd., London;
Private collection, UK 
Lowry is rightly considered one of the great painters of crowds, yet ironically a principle theme of his work is isolation. This is physically evident in the present work as what looks to be a terraced house stands alone. This is further emphasised by the stark tonal contrast between black and white. Following the Second World War much of Lowry’s work was based away from industrial Northern cities, concentrating instead on rural landscapes and the coast. Many such paintings were entirely devoid of human presence with large, featureless, monochrome areas depicting land, sea or sky. This is similar to the apparent void surrounding the house in the present work, with the only background elements being a cart and the barely discernible outline of a building. This vaguely surreal composition is enhanced by the central figure of a man, staring directly at the viewer in a confrontational and accusatory pose. The combination of such disparate elements are undoubtedly unsettling but, much like the poetry of his contemporary Philip Larkin, there is a profound honesty in their unsanitised representation of life. It is an attitude well summed-up by the artist when explaining his reason for painting, ‘It was the only thing I had to do. I worked to get rid of the time, even now I work for something to do. Painting is a wonderful way of getting rid of the days.’

Biography

Laurence Stephen Lowry’s extraordinary standing and popularity owe everything to his reputation as an urban realist, a painter of mill towns populated with a myriad of ‘stick’ figures. In truth, for more than a third of his career he had left the urban scenes behind and turned to more solitary subjects, reflecting perhaps his own loneliness. Lowry was born in Manchester to relatively prosperous parents, who in 1909, moved to the industrial district of Pendlebury.

He studied at Manchester and Salford Schools of Art until 1928, whilst working as a clearly very sympathetic rent collector, one of Lowry’s teachers being Pierre Adolphe Valette (1876-1942). From 1932 Lowry exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy and in 1934 was elected RBA. 1939 saw his first one-man exhibition and sadly the death of his mother with whom he had lived, his father having died in 1932. Lowry stayed in Pendlebury until 1948, then moved to Mottram in Longdendale, Cheshire, which from all accounts he disliked, and where he died in 1976. Lowry was belatedly elected ARA in 1955 and RA in 1962. Lowry was perhaps surprisingly, a great admirer of the Pre-Raphaelites; he owned works by Dante Gabriel Charles Rossetti (1828-1882) and Ford Madox Brown (1821-1893), and works by Lucien Freud (b.1922).

His early work owes something to an Anglicised form of impressionism, while his industrial scenes, far from being naïve or primitive, show careful observation and character, the work of an artist who studied at art school a considerable time. Without question Lowry is a unique artist, his works a product of his environment and character, one of the great names in 20th century British art.

His works can be found in museums in: London, Tate Britain; Manchester; Nottingham; Salford and New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Laurence Stephen Lowry, RA, RBA, LG, NS