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Laurence Stephen Lowry - Street in Salford

Laurence Stephen Lowry

Street in Salford

Oil on canvas: 14.1(h) x 18(w) in / 35.9(h) x 45.7(w) cm
Signed and dated lower left: L.S. Lowry 1958; inscribed and dated on the stretcher and overlap: Street in Salford 58

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LAURENCE STEPHEN LOWRY RA RBA LG NS

Manchester 1887 - 1976 Glossop

Ref: CA 195

                                               

Street in Salford

 

 

Signed and dated lower left: L.S. Lowry 1958; inscribed and dated on the stretcher and overlap: Street in Salford 58

Oil on canvas: 14 ⅛ x 18 in / 35.9 x 45.7 cm

Frame size: 19 ½ x 23 ½ in / 49.5 x 59.7 cm

In a black and gold Nicholson style frame

 

 

Provenance:

Lefevre Gallery, London [X 7489], 12th July 1958, directly from the artist;

private collection, 1st October 1958, acquired from the Lefevre exhibition;

private collection, UK, 1992, inherited from the above

 

Exhibited:

London, Lefevre Gallery, Recent Paintings by L S Lowry, October 1958, no.27

 

Reproduced:

Photograph by Frank Martin, Lowry at work, April 1958, Hulton Archive BIPS / Getty Images

 

 

This joyful, beautifully balanced street scene is based on Francis Terrace, Salford, built in the 1850s on the east side of the River Irwell and demolished in 1959, a year after it was painted. The area was in desperate need of redevelopment in the aftermath of the Second World War and the deprivation of the local population. Before it was destroyed, Lowry was commissioned by the Curator of Salford Art Gallery, Ted Frape, to record streets in the neighbourhood of the museum.[1] Richard Mayson writes, ‘the street obviously captured Lowry’s imagination, as he made a number of images of it, both drawings and an oil painting on canvas. His drawing Francis Terrace (1956) was almost certainly developed from a sketch made in situ but it illustrates Lowry’s considerable capacity for artistic licence. The scene is recognisable from contemporary photographs and the leaning, decapitated lamp standard, the railings at the end of the street and the fall of the land are all topographically accurate. However, in reality the lamppost was located just off-centre and Lowry chose to move it to the middle of the street…In the background Lowry decided to enhance the industrial setting by adding a tall mill chimney.’[2]

 

Both the drawing of 1956, in the collection of The Lowry, Salford, and the slightly larger oil painting, Francis Street, Salford, 1957 (15 ¾ x 19 ½ in), in the collection of Newport Museum & Art Gallery, feature the decapitated lamppost visible in a contemporary photograph of the street. In the present work, Lowry replaces the dilapidated post at the heart of this tight-knit community, its centrality drawing us straight into the celebratory scene in which neighbours gossip, children play and dogs often walk themselves. The cul-de-sac of twinned ‘two-up, two-down’ terraces provides a wonderful set for Lowry’s delightful human drama, with fantastic characters entering from doorways on both sides like the wings of a stage. Sir Ian McKellen, whose lifelong passion for Lowry led him to make a documentary on the artist, suggests looking at Lowry’s pictures as if they were behind a proscenium, the lines in the foreground representing the front edge of the stage.[3]

 

                                 

LS Lowry, Francis Street, Salford, 1957                                LS Lowry, Francis Terrace, Salford, 1956

Oil on canvas: 15 ¾ x 19 ½ in                                       Pencil on paper: 9 7/8 x 13 ¾ cm

Newport Museum & Art Gallery                                      The Lowry Collection, Salford

 

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 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. There 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 was 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 surroundings form a whole.

 

By the 1930s Lowry 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 four other colours: vermilion, 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 from this period capture the essence of Northern people; he frequently mixes young and old and he imparts to each figure an individual character. Shelley Rohde in A private view of L S Lowry comments: ‘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 Lowry’s 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 heaped upon him.

 

Lowry is 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 he so richly deserves.

 

 

[1] See Judith Sandling and Mike Leber, Lowry’s City. A painter and his locale, Lowry Press, Salford, 2000, p.43.

[2] Richard Mayson, Lowry’s Lamps, Unicorn, London, 2020, pp.96-97.

[3] See TG Rothensthal, LS Lowry: The art and the artist, Unicorn Press, Norwich, 2010, pp.42-46.

Other Works By
Laurence Stephen Lowry:

Laurence Stephen Lowry - Yacht race Laurence Stephen Lowry - Head of a man Laurence Stephen Lowry - A woman standing

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