Laurence Stephen Lowry

Lytham Pier

Oil on canvas: 18(h) x 24(w) in /

45.7(h) x 61(w) cm

Signed and dated lower right: LS Lowry 1945

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BT 287

 

LAURENCE STEPHEN LOWRY RA, RBA, LG, NS

Manchester 1887 – 1976 Glossop

 

Lytham Pier

 

Signed and dated lower right: LS Lowry 1945

Oil on canvas: 18 x 24 in / 45.7 x 61 cm

Frame size: 25 ¾ x 31 ¾ in / 65.4 x 80.6 cm

In a modern gilded and coloured frame

 

Provenance:

The Lefevre Gallery, London [X 5788]

Sir Frederic Hooper, acquired from the above in 1947

Mrs Bernard Vann

Sotheby’s London, 1st May 1968, lot 77

Private collection

Christie’s London, 12th March 1982, lot 248

Crane Kalman Gallery, London

Mr WTM Turner, Quebec, Canada, acquired from the above in 1982, then by descent

 

Exhibited:

London, Crane Kalman Gallery, 32 Major Works by LS Lowry 1887-1976, March-April 1982

 

Literature:

Mervyn Levy, The Paintings of L.S. Lowry, oils and watercolours, Jupiter Books, London, 1977, no.67, illus.

 

 

Painted in 1945, Lytham Pier is a joyful scene of post-war Britain, in which Lowry’s figures are relaxed and carefree. A transposition of city life to shoreline, the busy holidaymakers ebb and flow across the undulating dunes, the Pier linking land, sea and sky. Lytham Pier, designed by Eugenius Birch as the seaside town’s first pleasure attraction, was opened on 17th April 1865 by Lady Eleanor Clifton. The 914 foot jetty, with continuous seating and gas lighting along its

deck, underwent several renovations during the 1890s–1900s before being badly damaged during a storm in 1903 and again in 1928, when a fire caused extensive damage to the pavilion. Following a period of decline and closure to the public shortly before the outbreak of war, the

pier was demolished in 1960, despite the opposition of local residents. Lowry spent many childhood holidays with his parents at Lytham St Annes, a resort on the Lancashire coast, and began his career with images of the sea: ‘I used to draw little ships when I was eight,’ he

recalled.[1] Mervyn Levy suggests the yachts at Lytham St Annes in particular haunted the artist’s imagination: ‘They re-appear over the years in dreamlike evocations of those long ago holidays; a touching tribute to his mother’s love of their old holiday resort.’[2]

 

Lowry was fascinated by the sea and in the present work, richly expresses the sense of freedom and pleasure that the seaside affords. As light and jubilant as another important work of this date, VE Day, 1945 (Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum, Glasgow), Lowry’s vivid palette

conveys energy and optimism, the colourful costumes of the holidaymakers enliven the luminous sand, while the bobbing boats brighten the surface of the water. He suggests a warmth and fondness in this beach scene, evident in the figures of the children in the foreground with their

buckets and spades.

 

A lifelong non-conformist, Lowry graciously rejected many honours during his career and was sceptical about being made an Associate of the Royal Academy at the age of sixty-seven in 1955 (‘Ah,’ said Lowry with a grin, but that was good for business.’)[3] He was nonetheless delighted to be made a full Academician seven years later, writing to his friend Percy Warburton: ‘Yes, I feel very pleased about the RA, for they did it out of my turn. It goes by rotation and seventy-five is the age limit.’[4] Apparently the artist James Fitton RA lobbied Lowry’s case, enlisting the support of his friends Harold and Laura Knight: ‘They were horrified when they saw what they had elected,’ says Fitton, ‘but afterwards they became acclimatised to him.’[5] Lowry died nine months before his retrospective exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1976, in what Shelley Rohde describes as the ‘ultimate tribute to the artist whom they had intended uniquely to honour with a full exhibition in his lifetime.’[6] In the introduction to the catalogue, President Hugh Casson described the artist as ‘…one of the Royal Academy’s best loved members, and one of the great English painters of this century.’[7] The public, Rohde records, ‘queued through the courtyard of Burlington House and beyond to marvel at the range and mastery of this ordinary yet extraordinary man. When the exhibition closed ten weeks later, the attendance had set new records, rivalled only by the great Turner exhibition two years previously.’[8]

 

                 

A postcard of Lytham Pier                                        LS Lowry, July, the Seaside, 1943

      Art Council Collection, Southbank Centre

 

 

 

LAURENCE STEPHEN LOWRY RA RBA LG NS

Manchester 1887 – 1976 Glossop

 

Sir Hugh Casson, in his preface to the 1976 Royal Academy Memorial exhibition, referred to L S Lowry as ‘one of the great English painters of this century’. An individual artist with a unique style, Lowry’s work spans the first half of the twentieth century recording with sensitivity and wit his own personal view of the people and architecture of the industrial north.

 

Born in Manchester in 1887 Laurence Stephen Lowry was the only child of Robert and Elizabeth Lowry.  He started drawing at the age of eight and in 1903, he began private painting classes which marked the start of a part-time education in art that was to continue for twenty years. In 1904, aged 16, he left school and secured a job as a clerk in a chartered accountants firm, he remained in full time employment until his retirement at the age of 65. His desire to be considered a serious artist 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.

 

Lowry’s early training was at the Municipal College of Art, Manchester, where he was taught by the French artist Adolphe Valette who introduced him to Impressionism and of whom he said ‘I owe so much to him for it was he who first showed me good drawings by the great masters… he gave me the feeling that life drawing was a very wonderful thing.’ Lowry was, however, unaffected by Valette’s impressionist technique and continued to develop a more realistic approach to his art.

 

In 1909 Lowry and his parents moved to Pendlebury, where initially he was not happy, and for some years ignored his surroundings. In 1916, whilst waiting for a train, he became fascinated by the workers leaving the Acme Spinning Company Mill; the combination of the people and the surroundings were a revelation to him and marked the turning point in his artistic career.   He now began to explore the industrial areas of South Lancashire and discovered a wealth of inspiration, remarking ‘My subjects were all around me … in those days there were mills and collieries all around Pendlebury. The people who work there were passing morning and night.   All my material was on my doorstep.’

 

By 1920 Lowry’s street scenes, peopled with workers, housewives and children set against a backdrop of industrial buildings and terraced houses had become central to his highly personal style. From now on he painted entirely from experience and believed that you should ‘paint the place you know’. His leisure time was spent walking the streets of Manchester and Salford making pencil sketches on scraps of paper and the backs of used envelopes recording anything that could be used in his work. In his early factory scenes the emphasis is placed on the buildings and the atmosphere was often dark and sombre, however, as he developed this theme the figures became more prominent and eventually he arrived at a marriage between the two where the figures and surrounding from a whole.

 

By the 1930s he had established his own particular style, he was 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 used only five other colours: vermillion, Prussian blue, ivory black and ochre which he applied straight from the tube.

 

With the onset of the modernisation of the industrial north in the mid-1950s Lowry lost interest in his surroundings and now concentrated almost entirely on figures silhouetted against a white background, occasionally standing on a hint of a pavement or near a ghost of a wall, but frequently suspended in time and space.  He continued to sketch and closely observe his subjects and his works form this period capture the essence and nature of the Northern people; he frequently mixes young and old and he imparts to each figure an individual character. Shelly Rohde in her book A private view of L S Lowry wrote ‘he had a new obsession, his single figures, his grotesques. The struggling, surging, misshapen homunculi who used to live for so long in the shadow of the mills emerging at last from their background to stand alone, as he stood alone…’

 

Visits to Wales in the 1960s with his friend and patron Monty Bloom briefly revived his interest in industrial scenes. He was impressed by the contrast between the industrial towns and the surrounding countryside, consequently his paintings from this period are brighter than his Lancashire paintings. However, towards the end of the 1960s Lowry began to lose his creative urge and, with the exception of the occasional moment of artistic inspiration he ceased painting almost entirely.

 

Laurence Stephen Lowry died of pneumonia in 1976, aged 88. Although he had received 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 praise that was often heaped upon him.

 

Lowry is always remembered as a man of remarkable resilience and sensitivity; he stood alone, unaffected by the influences of other artists and his inspiration came entirely from his own experience. His paintings and drawings are now included in most important private and public collections in the United Kingdom and abroad and his unique works continue to receive the critical acclaim that they so richly deserve.

 

 

 

 

[1] The artist cited in Michael Howard, Lowry, A Visionary Artist, Lowry Press, Salford, 2000, p.226.

[2] Mervyn Levy, ‘Introduction’, LS Lowry RA 1887–1976, exh cat, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1976, p.9.

[3] The artist cited in Shelley Rohde, LS Lowry, a Biography, The Lowry Press, Salford, 1999, p.354.

[4] Lowry was within five months of his seventy-fifth birthday when he was elected. Letter from the artist to P Warburton, 2nd June 1962, ibid, p.354.

[5] Cited in Shelley Rohde, op.cit., pp.354–355.

[6] Shelley Rohde, ibid., p.439.

[7] Hugh Casson, LS Lowry RA 1887–1976, exh cat, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1976, p.5.

[8] Shelley Rohde, op.cit., p.439. Marina Vaizey states that 180, 216 visitors came to Lowry’s retrospective: ‘Lowry indeed holds the Royal Academy record for any twentieth-century exhibition of the art of an individual. Only Picasso and Stanley Spencer begin to approach Lowry in the twentieth-century top of the pops at the RA.’ Cited in ‘Will It All Last…?’, LS Lowry, Michael Leber and Judith Sandling, Phaidon, reprint 2001, p.84.

Modern BritishLaurence Stephen Lowry