SALFORD ARTIST DONE GOOD
by Norman Warwick
Laurence Stephen Lowry RBA RA (1st November 1887 – 23rd February 1976) was an English artist. His drawings and paintings mainly depict Pendlebury, Lancashire, where he lived and worked for more than 40 years, and Salford and its vicinity.
Lowry is famous for painting scenes of life in the industrial districts of North West England in the mid-20th century. He developed a distinctive style of painting and is best known for his urban landscapes peopled with human figures, often referred to as “matchstick men”. He painted mysterious unpopulated landscapes, brooding portraits and the unpublished “marionette” works, which were only found after his death.
His use of stylised figures, which cast no shadows, and lack of weather effects in many of his landscapes led critics to label him a naïve “Sunday painter”.
I remember how amazed I was to find so much more to Lowry´s work when my wife and took a tour round a Lowry Exhibition of the time, guided by John Siddique (left), poet in residence at The Lowry complex at the time. Much of the work was of landscapes, often looking desolate with buildings often derelict often ravaged, capturing the ravages state of Lancashire coal-fields. John was a colleague of mine at Artists In Schools and although we were sometimes in competition for the same roles I had a great admiration for his work, and this one night I came to realise that such good work emerged from an enquiring and intelligent mind, which made him perfect for the kid of work he was undertaking at The Lowry. The atmosphere and arts around him must have inspired and influenced his poetry, of course, but I senses that the more he learned about Lowry the more he wanted to share with his companions on the gallery tours.
He explained the scenes not with the empathy of a poet but also of an arts-lover with newly acquired knowledge and perception.
He introduced Dee and I to the industrial landscapes and the hills that surrounded Lowry´s paintings of his local habitat, of rock faces, quarries and coal-mines on landscapes (right), colourless, depicting vistas torn asunder by man and machinery. John Siddique , though, and anyone he guided through Lowryland , would point out the some tiny spot of red that seemed to trademark these exhibits,…………….often the only prime colour on the work and on first glance seeming to depict the sun. It seemed to me a magician´s trick somehow,….the only speck of colour on the canvas should have drawn the eye, and yet, I swear, it fel to me as if somehow LS Lowry had always just out of the viewer´s peripheral vision. Can that be done, by some trick of the light?
John Siddique (born July 1964) is has beome known as a spiritual teacher, poet, and author. He is the founder of Authentic Living, through which he aims to encourage people from all walks of life to awaken to what he calls their “true naturalness”.
John is not aligned with any particular religion, philosophy, or tradition. Known for his authenticity, humour, and “feet on the ground” wisdom, his work has quietly reached millions of people. He has to date published eight books. His teachings and writings have featured in Time Magazine, The Guardian, Granta, on CNN and the BBC. The Times of India calls him “Rebellious by nature, pure at heart.” The Spectator magazine describes him as “A stellar British poet.” New York Times correspondent Bina Shah says Siddique is “One of the best poets of our generation.” Scottish Poet Laureate Jackie Kay speaks of Siddique’s writing as being “A brilliant balancing act.”
Siddique is the Honorary Fellow in Creative Writing at Leicester University. He is the former Laureate of the British city of Canterbury, and British Council Poet in Residence at California State University, Los Angeles. Over the years he has held a number of roles with the Royal Literary Fund (RLF), including being the RLF Fellow at York St. John University. Alongside his spiritual work, he is a commissioning editor for the Royal Literary Fund‘s WritersMosaic initiative.
Born in the United Kingdom, Siddique initially had a difficult early life and rebelled against school and society. He later attended Manchester University as a mature student, gaining a master’s degree in Literature. His study of meditation, yoga, and inner healing began at the age of fourteen, at first from books, then in the deep practical study of the great religions and practices, before setting all labels aside after a series of profound shifts in consciousness, which included a near-death experience in 2014.
LS Lowry, the artist John Siddique encouraged me to look at in a different way, holds the record for rejecting five British honours , including a knighthood (1968). A collection of his work is on display in The Lowry, a purpose-built art gallery on Salford Quays. On 26 June 2013, a major retrospective opened at the Tate Britain in London, his first at the gallery; in 2014 his first solo exhibition outside the UK was held in Nanjing, China.
Lowry was born on 1 November 1887 at 8 Barrett Street Stretford, which was then in Lancashire. It was a difficult birth, and his mother Elizabeth, who had hoped for a girl, was uncomfortable even looking at him at first. Later she expressed envy of her sister Mary, who had “three splendid daughters” instead of one “clumsy boy”. Lowry’s father Robert, who was of Northern Irish descent, worked as a clerk for the Jacob Earnshaw and Son Property Company and was a withdrawn and introverted man. Lowry once described him as “a cold fish” and “(the sort of man who) realised he had a life to live and did his best to get through it.”
John Alfred Earnshaw (left), the son of Jacob Earnshaw,(qv) was born at Newton Heath, Manchester, on January 30th, 1865 and was educated privately. After serving his articles with W Telford Gunson, architect and surveyor, John Earnshaw spent two or three years in the estate offices of the Dean and Canons of Manchester, assisting in the work of this department and at the same time practising on his own account. From about 1888 he practised as an architect and surveyor in addition to being actively engaged in the management of the Manchester Chapter Estates and in 1893 he joined his father in partnership under the style. J. Earnshaw and Son.
After Lowry’s birth, his mother’s health was too poor for her to continue teaching. She is reported to have been a religious woman who was talented and respected, with aspirations of becoming a concert pianist. She was also an irritable, nervous woman brought up to expect high standards by her stern father. Like him, she was controlling and intolerant of failure. She used illness as a means of securing the attention and obedience of her mild and affectionate husband and she dominated her son in the same way. Lowry maintained that he had an unhappy childhood, growing up in a repressive family atmosphere. Although his mother demonstrated no appreciation of her son’s gifts as an artist, a number of books Lowry received as Christmas presents from his parents are inscribed to “Our dearest Laurie”. At school he made few friends and showed no academic aptitude. His father was affectionate towards him but was, by all accounts, a quiet man who was at his most comfortable fading into the background as an unobtrusive presence.
Much of Lowry’s early years were spent in the leafy Manchester suburb of Victoria Park, Rusholme, but in 1909, when he was 22, due to financial pressures, the family moved to 117 Station Road in the industrial town of Pendlebury. Here the landscape comprised textile mills and factory chimneys rather than trees. Lowry later recalled: “At first I detested it, and then, after years I got pretty interested in it, then obsessed by it … One day I missed a train from Pendlebury – [a place] I had ignored for seven years – and as I left the station I saw the Acme Spinning Company’s Mill (right)… The huge black framework of rows of yellow-lit windows standing up against the sad, damp charged afternoon sky. The mill was turning out … I watched this scene — which I’d looked at many times without seeing — with rapture …”
After leaving school, Lowry began a career working for the Pall Mall Company, later collecting rents. He would spend some time in his lunch hour at Buile Hill Park] and in the evenings took private art lessons in antique and freehand drawing. In 1905, he secured a place at the Manchester School of Art, where he studied under the French Impressionist, Pierre Adolphe Valette. Lowry was full of praise for Valette as a teacher, remarking “I cannot over-estimate the effect on me of the coming into this drab city of Adolphe Valette (left) , full of French impressionists, aware of everything that was going on in Paris”. In 1915 lowry moved on to the Royal Technical Institute, Salford (later to become the Royal Technical College, Salford and now the University of Salford) where his studies continued until 1925. There he developed an interest in industrial landscapes and began to establish his own style.
Lowry’s oil paintings were originally impressionistic and dark in tone but D. B. Taylor of the Manchester Guardian took an interest in his work and encouraged him to move away from the sombre palette he was using. Taking this advice on board, Lowry began to use a white background to lighten the pictures He developed a distinctive style of painting and is best known for his urban landscapes peopled with human figures, often referred to as “matchstick men”. He also painted mysterious unpopulated landscapes, brooding portraits and the unpublished “marionette” works, which were only found after his death.
His father died in 1932, leaving debts. His mother, subject to neurosis and depression, became bedridden and dependent on her son for care. Lowry painted after his mother had fallen asleep, between 10:00 p.m. and 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. Many paintings produced during this period were damning self-portraits (often referred to as the “Horrible Heads” series), which demonstrate the influence of expressionism and may have been inspired by an exhibition of Vincent van Gogh‘s work at Manchester Art Gallery in 1931. He expressed regret that he received little recognition as an artist until his mother died (1939) and that she was not able to enjoy his success. From the mid-1930s until at least 1939, Lowry took annual holidays at Berwick-upon-Tweed. After the outbreak of the Second World War Lowry served as a volunteer fire watcher and became an official war artist in 1943. In 1953, he was appointed Official Artist at the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. After his mother’s death in October 1939, he became depressed and neglected the upkeep of his house to such a degree that the landlord repossessed it in 1948. He was not short of money and bought “The Elms” in Mottram in Longdendale then in Cheshire. The area was much more rural but Lowry professed to dislike both the house and the area:
They’re nice folk, I’ve nothing against them, it’s the place never could take to it. I can’t explain it. I’ve often wondered…It does nothing for me. I know there’s plenty to paint here but I haven’t the slightest desire to work locally. I’ve done one painting of the local agricultural show. Was commissioned to paint the parish church but had to give it up, I couldn’t do it.
Although he considered the house ugly and uncomfortable, it was spacious enough both to set up his studio in the dining room and to accommodate the collection of china and clocks that he had inherited from his mother; he stayed there until his death almost 30 years later.
In later years, Lowry spent holidays at the Seaburn Hotel in Sunderland, painting scenes of the beach and nearby ports and coal mines. When he had no sketchbook, Lowry drew scenes in pencil or charcoal on the back of envelopes, serviettes and cloakroom tickets and presented them to young people sitting with their families. Such serendipitous pieces are now worth thousands of pounds.
He was a secretive and mischievous man who enjoyed stories irrespective of their truth. His friends observed that his anecdotes were more notable for humour than accuracy and in many cases he set out deliberately to deceive. His stories about the fictional Ann were inconsistent and he invented other people as frameworks on which to hang his tales. The collection of clocks in his living room were all set at different times: to some people, he said that this was because he did not want to know the real-time; to others, he claimed that it was to save him from being deafened by their simultaneous chimes. The owner of an art gallery in Manchester who visited him at his home, The Elms, noted that while his armchair was sagging and the carpet frayed, Lowry was surrounded by items such as his beloved Rossetti drawing, Proserpine, as well as a Lucian Freud drawing located between two Tompion clocks.
Lowry had many long-lasting friendships, including the Salford artist Harold Riley (right), and made new friends throughout his adult life. He bought works from young artists he admired, such as James Lawrence Isherwood, whose Woman with Black Cat hung on his studio wall. He was friends with some of these artists; he befriended the 23-year-old Cumberland artist Sheila Fell in November 1955, describing her as “the finest landscape artist of the mid-20th century”.. He supported Fell’s career by buying several pictures that he gave to museums. Fell later described him as “A great humanist. To be a humanist, one has first to love human beings, and to be a great humanist, one has to be slightly detached from them”. As he never married, this affected his influence but he did have several female friends. At the age of 88 he said that he had “never had a woman”. Although seen as a mostly solitary and private person, Lowry enjoyed attending football matches and was an ardent supporter of Manchester City.
Oh Lowry, you should be alive at this hour !
Lowry retired from the Pall Mall Property Company in 1952 on his 65th birthday. In 1957 an unrelated 13-year-old schoolgirl called Carol Ann Lowry wrote to him at her mother’s urging to ask his advice on becoming an artist. He visited her home in Heywood, (the town I lived in for over fifty years) and befriended the family. His friendship with Carol Ann Lowry (left) lasted for the rest of his life. BBC Radio 4 broadcast in 2001 was a dramatisation by Glyn Hughes of Lowry’s relationship with Carol Ann.[
In the 1960s Lowry shared exhibitions in Salford with Warrington-born artist Reginald Waywell D.F.A.
Lowry joked about retiring from the art world, citing his lack of interest in the changing landscape. Instead, he began to focus on groups of figures and odd imaginary characters. Unknown to his friends and the public, Lowry produced a series of erotic works that were not seen until after his death. The paintings depict the mysterious “Ann“ figure, who appears in portraits and sketches produced throughout his lifetime, enduring sexually charged and humiliating tortures. When these works were exhibited at the Art Council’s Centenary exhibition at the Barbican in 1988, art critic Richard Dorment wrote in The Daily Telegraph that these works “reveal a sexual anxiety which is never so much as hinted at in the work of the previous 60 years.” The group of erotic works, which are sometimes referred to as “the mannequin sketches” or “marionette works”, are kept at the Lowry Centre and are available for visitors to see on request. Some are also brought up into the public display area on a rotation system. Manchester author Howard Jacobson has argued that the images are just part of Lowry’s melancholy and tortured view of the world and that they would change the public perception of the complexity of his work if they were more widely seen.
Lowry died of pneumonia at the Woods Hospital in Glossop, Derbyshire, on 23 February 1976, aged 88. He was buried in the Southern Cemetery in Manchester, next to his parents. He left an estate valued at £298,459, and a considerable number of artworks by himself and others to Carol Ann Lowry, who, in 2001, obtained trademark protection of the artist’s signature.
He was the subject of a number of studies and biographies suring his life time, and of course, following his death and for the most insightful and quietly intriguing you might like to read A Prive View Of L.S. Lowry by Shelley Rohde (right)
Gillian Shelley Mary Rohde (17 May 1933 – 6 December 2007) was a British journalist and author. She was best known in North West England as a reporter and presenter on Granada Reports, but she is more widely remembered as the biographer of the artist L. S. Lowry.
She was born Gillian Shelley Mary Hall, on 17 May 1933, in Paddington, England, her parents being a scriptwriter father and an actress mother. Shelley took the surname of her mother’s second husband, the pilot Douglas Rohde. She was largely brought up by her maternal grandmother, Patricia Reardon.
The path to adulthood led through Nottinghamshire. There had been many schools, and Shelley had contrived to be expelled from some. When she left school at 16, it was with no qualifications, and this was to impart a certain drive to her career.
She secured her first job on the Nottinghamshire Free Press before gravitating to London and joining first The Star and later the Daily Express. The Express sent her to the Soviet Union, where at age 21 she became the first female foreign correspondent in Moscow. From her years in Moscow, not only did she learn Russian, but served as interpreter for the press when the Soviet leaders Nikita Khrushchev and Nikolai Bulganin made their official visit to London in 1956.
Still only a young woman, she was a witness to the events of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. Her coverage of it is mentioned in James Michener’s book The Bridge at Andau, in particular an incident where journalists waiting at the bridge to interview fleeing refugees heard a baby crying. Risking a bullet, Rohde crossed the bridge to help the baby and family to safety.
In the 1960s she moved north to Manchester as chief feature writer for the Daily Mail and from there joined Granada Television, which gave her scope as a presenter of programmes and commentator of the local scene, chat host and debating chair, becoming a personality in her own right. She was a forceful personality, but generally treated her interviewees with sympathy and visibly entered into their enthusiasms and quirks. She had a memorable laugh. It was a mix of style that drew on the pioneering skills of the foreign correspondent and the knack of the local journalist in bringing out the interest in the lives of our neighbours.
It was in this setting that she began to investigate the local artist L. S. Lowry and was eventually to become an acknowledged expert on him. Her documentary on him, L.S. Lowry: A Private View, was made after she had interviewed the artist personally, which she did several times during his later life. This was in itself an achievement, given that Lowry was known to be difficult to pin down to an interview appointment and to any clear content and was inclined to amuse himself by making up stories. He first told Rohde he had given up painting long ago, but it was noticed that the paint on a canvas was wet.
She was to write extensively about Lowry, including her book A private view of L.S. Lowry (revised as L.S. Lowry: A Biography), and won the Portico Prize for literary excellence in 2002 with another book, The Lowry Lexicon: An A-Z of L.S. Lowry. However, she was not monomaniacal and went on to do A-Z of Van Gogh.
Lowry left a cultural legacy, his works often sold for millions of pounds and inspired other artists. The Lowry art gallery in Salford Quays was opened in 2000 at a cost of £106 million; named after him, the 2,000-square-metre (22,000 sq ft) gallery houses 55 of his paintings and 278 drawings – the world’s largest collection of his work – with up to 100 on display. In January 2005, a statue of him (right) was unveiled in Mottram in Longdendale 100 yards away from his home from 1948 until his death in 1976. The statue has been a target for vandals since it was unveiled.] In 2006 the Lowry Centre in Salford hosted a contemporary dance performance inspired by his work.
To mark the centenary of his birth in 1987, Royston Futter, director of the L. S. Lowry Centenary Festival, on behalf of the City of Salford and the BBC commissioned the Northern Ballet Theatre and Gillian Lynne to create a dance drama in his honour. A Simple Man was choreographed and directed by Lynne, with music by Carl Davis and starred Christopher Gable and Moira Shearer (in her last dance role). It was broadcast on BBC, for which it won a BAFTA award as the best arts programme in 1988, and also performed live on stage in November 1987. Further performances were held in London at Sadler’s Wells in 1988, and again in 2009.
In February 2011 a bronze statue of Lowry was installed in the basement of his favourite pub, Sam’s Chop House.
In 2013 a retrospective was held at the Tate Britain in London, his first there. In 2014 his first solo exhibition outside the UK was held in Nanjing, China. One of the ‘houses‘ at Wellacre Academy in Manchester is named after him.
Lowry was awarded an honorary Master of Arts degree by the University of Manchester in 1945, and Doctor of Letters in 1961. In April 1955 Lowry was elected as an Associate Member of the Royal Academy of Arts and in April 1962 became a full Royal Academician. At the end of December of the same year his membership status evolved to that of Senior Academician having reached the age of 75. He was given the freedom of the city of Salford in 1965.
In 1975 he was awarded two honorary Doctor of Letters degrees by the Universities of Salford and Liverpool. In 1964, the art world celebrated his 77th birthday with an exhibition of his work and that of 25 contemporary artists who had submitted tributes at Monk’s Hall Museum, Eccles. The Hallé orchestra performed a concert in his honour and Prime Minister Harold Wilson used Lowry’s painting The Pond as his official Christmas card. Lowry’s painting Coming Out of School was depicted on a postage stamp of highest denomination in a series issued by the Post Office depicting great British artists in 1968. Lowry twice declined appointment to the Order of the British Empire: as an Officer (OBE) in 1955, and as a Commander (CBE) in 1961, Lowry saying “There seemed little point.. once mother was dead” (as seen in the end credits of the movie Mrs Lowry and son). He turned down a knighthood in 1968, and appointments to the Order of the Companions of Honour (CH) in 1972 and 1976. He holds the record for the most honours declined.
Lowry said of the industrial landscape that surrounded him for so much of his life, that “We went to Pendlebury in 1909 from a residential side of Manchester, and we didn’t like it. My father wanted to go to get near a friend for business reasons. We lived next door, and for a long time my mother never got to like it, and at first I disliked it, and then after about a year or so I got used to it, and then I got absorbed in it, then I got infatuated with it. Then I began to wonder if anyone had ever done it. Seriously, not one or two, but seriously; and it seemed to me by that time that it was a very fine industrial subject matter. And I couldn’t see anybody at that time who had done it – and nobody had done it, it seemed.´
“Most of my land and townscape is composite. Made up; part real and part imaginary … bits and pieces of my home locality. I don’t even know I’m putting them in. They just crop up on their own, like things do in dreams.”
He spoke, too, of his style and how it developed.
“I wanted to paint myself into what absorbed me … Natural figures would have broken the spell of it, so I made my figures half unreal. Some critics have said that I turned my figures into puppets, as if my aim were to hint at the hard economic necessities that drove them. To say the truth, I was not thinking very much about the people. I did not care for them in the way a social reformer does. They are part of a private beauty that haunted me. I loved them and the houses in the same way: as part of a vision.
“I am a simple man, and I use simple materials: ivory black, vermilion, prussian blue, yellow ochre, flake white and no medium. That’s all I’ve ever used in my paintings. I like oils … I like a medium you can work into over a period of time.” On painting his
When talking about “Seascapes” he spoke of his affiliation with the sea.
“It’s the battle of life – the turbulence of the sea … I have been fond of the sea all my life, how wonderful it is, yet how terrible it is. But I often think … what if it suddenly changed its mind and didn’t turn the tide? And came straight on? If it didn’t stay but came on and on and on and on … That would be the end of it all.”
He had plenty of opinions, too, on art in general
“You don’t need brains to be a painter, just feelings.”
“I am not an artist. I am a man who paints.”
“If people call me a Sunday painter, I’m a Sunday painter who paints every day of the week.”
Lowry’s work is held in many public and private collections. The largest collection is held by Salford City Council and displayed at The Lowry. Its collection has about 400 works. X-ray analyses have revealed hidden figures under his drawings – the “Ann” figures.
The Tate Gallery in London owns 23 works. The City of Southampton owns The Floating Bridge, The Canal Bridge and An Industrial Town. His work is featured at MOMA, in New York City. The Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu in Christchurch, New Zealand has Factory at Widnes (1956) in its collection. The painting was one of the gallery’s most important acquisitions of the 1950s and remains the highlight of its collection of modern British art.
In the early days of his career Lowry was a member of the Manchester Group of Lancashire artists, exhibiting with them at Margo Ingham‘s Mid-Day Studios in Manchester. He made a small painting of the Mid-Day Studios which is in the collection of the Manchester City Art Gallery.
Going to the Match (left) has been owned by the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) and until recently was for many years displayed at The Lowry along with a preparatory pencil sketch.
It feels fantastic now to end our Sidetracks And Detours LS Lowry festival with the great news that should sasfy all admirers of Lowry´s works.
An LS Lowry painting described as an “iconic masterpiece” has been sold at auction for a record-breaking £7.8 million.
BBC News on line service has posted that Going To The Match by LS Lowry (right) depicts a bustling throng of football fans gathered at the former home of Bolton Wanderers. It had been loaned to The Lowry Gallery in Salford by the Players Foundation. However, the foundation said the financial crisis meant it was forced to sell the 1953 work, raising fears it could be lost from public display.
The buyer has been confirmed as The Lowry arts centre, securing its future at the gallery. It was among a series of paintings that went on sale at Christie’s earlier, and sold for a hammer price of £6.6m with an additional buyer’s premium of £1.2m. The total sum is a new record price for a work by Lowry sold at auction-
As we reported in day 3 of this week´s five day Sidetracks And Detours LS Lowry Festival, in an article entitled Going To The Match, on Wednesday 19th October, in an article still available in our easy to negotiate archives of more than 750 features), the sale was previously the subject of controversy, with the Mayor of Salford Paul Dennett insisting any new owner must keep it “free to access”.
Lowry chief executive Julia Fawcett said the purchase was made possible “thanks to an incredibly generous gift from The Law Family Charitable Foundation”.
She added: “We look forward to bringing it home to Salford, where it can continue to delight and attract visitors to the Andrew and Zoë Law galleries at The Lowry.”
Andrew Law, who founded The Law Family Charitable Foundation with his wife Zoe, and has donated to the Lowry over the years, said the couple were “delighted” to have facilitated the purchase.
He added: “This LS Lowry painting belongs in Salford on public view, close to his birthplace, where he was educated and where he lived.”
Mr Dennett, who wrote to prominent local figures and business leaders asking for help to buy the work, said: “I am delighted our campaign to save this critical and important painting has successfully resulted in The Lowry securing it tonight.
“We emphatically believed Going to the Match should remain on public view. for the city of Salford in perpetuity for generations to come, for residents and visitors to our great city.”
Lowry, who died in 1976, spent much of his life in Salford and his work is strongly associated with the city.