Grove Fine Art

A Chronological Archive of Articles on L. S. Lowry

The extensive collection of press-cuttings and other news articles below has been personally collected by myself and my family over many years. Currently, there are 68 articles featured and more will be added in due course.

Please click on a year below to read articles from that year.

1927

1 article

1955

1 article

1964

7 articles

1965

7 articles

1966

4 articles

1967

3 articles

1968

1 article

1970

6 articles

1972

4 articles

1974

4 articles

1975

7 articles

1976

20 articles

1977

3 articles


Articles index: 1927 | 1955 | 1964 | 1965 | 1966 | 1967 | 1968 | 1970 | 1972 | 1974 | 1975 | 1976 | 1977

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1927

18 March

Lord Duveen (1869-1939), perhaps the most celebrated art dealer of his time, funded, organised and financed the British Artists’ Exhibitions for the benefit of native British art. Sir William Orpen was chairman of the selection committee and among those whose work was on show was Harold Knight, Ivon Hitchens, Ben Nicholson and L. S. Lowry, not then widely known.

“BRITISH ARTISTS’ EXHIBITIONS” INAUGRATION AT LEEDS (FROM OUR ART CRITIC) LEEDS, MARCH 17

As the first fruits of what is almost certain to be knows as the “Duveen scheme” for the benefit of native art the “British Artists’ Exhibition” at the Leeds City Art Gallery has an interest beyond that of the works themselves. From the general character of the exhibition it seems evident that of all the objects included in the scheme that of an extended market for native artists who, with a certain standard of accomplishment, have not yet found popularity is the one most likely to be fulfilled. What the scheme promises, indeed, is not so much the discovery of new talent as the better distribution of works by the talent we know, and the public as well as the artists themselves should benefit thereby.

There are two pictures, both by the same artist, Mr. Lawrence S. Lowry, which, without any such intention, might serve very well to indicate the advantages of the scheme. They are called “A Lancashire Village” and “Something Wrong”, the latter representing the emotional effect of what may be an accident and may be a crime upon the population of a typical industrial town. If the scheme should succeed in bringing contemporary works of art of good average quality into the knowledge and reach of the inhabitants of such places it will do something that has never been done before.

As a glance the exhibition strikes one as a very “ordinary” one. There is nothing in it of striking originality on the one hand or of intensely fine accomplishment on the other. But on examination a character comes out which speaks well for the system of selection and promises well for the future of the scheme, and that is a uniform level of competence in a wide variety of styles. There are not more than half a dozen works in the 345 which excite wonder as to why they were admitted, and it would not be easy to think of a recent London exhibition with the same effect of consistency. The reason for this is probably that the selection committee under the chairmanship of Sir William Orpen, is composed of eminent artists representing the right, centre and left of contemporary artistic opinion, thus assuring sympathetic as well as critical consideration of every kind of effort. We are told that 1,400 works in all were submitted, and the nature and kind of the 345 that remain show the judging was as broad as it was careful. Two works, in particular, will illustrate the catholicity of selection in the matter of kind: “The Stolen Princess” by Mr Mark Symons, a study in the pre-Raphaelite manner of a little lady asleep under a tree, in which every detail of flower and foliage is sharply delineated and Washing Day”, by Mr Ivon Hitchens, as abstract composition in which all the facts of nature are reduced to values of colour.

To the regular frequenter of London shows acquainted with the principle of selection the exhibition is remarkably like what might have been expected. The majority of the artists represented are of a familiar kind; sound rather than brilliant, knowing their business but just lacking the qualities - whether of novelty or intensity - which attract notice in a mixed exhibition from the casual visitor. A considerable number of the works are actually works which have been noted approvingly by the critics on their appearance in London, and to have given them this second change with a wider public, and a public less spoiled by opportunity than the London public, is a great thing done.

1955

The Observer, Sunday August 14

PROFILE - L. S. LOWRY

“He has done for industrial Lancashire what Constable did for Essex”. This comment on L. S. Lowry, made by a critic, was provocative - designed to start an argument rather to finish one - but it was to the point. Lowry is not, as many people think, a painter of ugliness; he is a painter of an unusual kind of beauty that it takes time to appreciate. If his election this year as an A.R.A. at sixty-seven seems belated, the Academy can still be praised for electing him at all.

No one who has seen his paintings can easily forget them. The Lowry scene - sometimes real but generally imagined - is a Lancashire town. In the stiffly pained background are the mill, the oily black canal, the tangled streets, the chimneys, the sooty Victorian chapel. Across the foreground move the doll-like Lowry figures: little black, bent people with big boots, going about their odd yet urgent business, hauling children or dogs or pushing decrepit prams with rusty and mysterious cargoes.

This is his native health, and these are the people he really knows. While many Northern painters have moved South, Lowry has stayed around Manchester, where he was born, and doggedly but lovingly put in on canvas. For many years hardly anyone took any notice of him. To-day he blinks a little in the light of fame; and goes on painting.

He is tall, spare man, with a slight stoop, thought he does not look his age. He has bright, blue-grey eyes, a big nose, and a stubbly haircut. His accent is homely. His manner is sometimes humorous, often sad, always gentle. Eight years ago he moved from his old home in Pendlebury (which is part of the Manchester sprawl) to the village of Mottram-in-Longdendale (which is on the edge of it). There he lives, alone, a bachelor, in a small stone house, with fourteen clocks for company. His front room, strawberry-distempered and full of elderly furniture, is his sitting-room; his back room is his studio.

Here Lowry works in the morning and again at night; in the afternoon he takes the bus into Manchester and wonders about the back streets that inspire him. There are two or three places in Manchester and Salford that he loves profoundly and that seem to breathe pictures into him. One is a piece of waste ground in Salford known locally as Stump Park; another - now perhaps his favourite - is an area of small streets just off the Oldham Road.

Laurence Stephen Lowry was born in Manchester, an estate agent’s son, and studies at the Manchester School of Art of Adolphe Valette. Nobody thought he was a brilliant student; he did not think so himself. His early work is careful, academic, and rather dowdy. He drew with determination rather than ease: as one if his contemporaries remarked, “one always had the feeling that the figure was hacked our with a meat-axe.”

One day, going to a class, Lowry missed his train from Pendlebury and, with time on his hands, wandered outside the station. Opposite him was spinning-mill, brooding powerfully over the rows of little houses. Suddenly, he says, it came over him that he was going to paint the industrial scene. He has painted it ever since. It took him a few years to develop his technique, but by 1920 or so he was fully armed. It is not easy to detect any difference or progress since them (though there is some). A key to “dating” can be found in the transition in the clothing of his little figures, from shawls to hats or head squares, and from clogs to boots.

There is little “story” to his life. He lived for many years with his parents in Pendlebury, painting industriously and selling little. In the 1920s the Manchester Guardian almost alone encouraged him. During the thirties he became gradually known in his own area. The Salford Art Gallery had begun to build up what is now the country’s best collection of Lowrys. But he was not a painter of more than local interest until 1939, when Mr Reid of Messrs. Alex. Reid and Lefevre saw some of his canvases by accident at the framers, and was so impressed that he arranged a one-man show. The show was a modest success; the Tate bought the picture. Now there is hardly a leading gallery without a Lowry. He has often exhibited abroad; several of his pictures have gone to America.

His work reflects his own nature to a striking degree, and a little knowledge of him helps with the paintings. He is a lonely man: anxious to be friendly, but unable to give much of himself to anyone: hence a wistful and melancholy quality in him which comes out strongly in his work.

His figures are often pathetic - not because they are poor or stunted or shabby but because they are lost souls, unable to communicate. The Lowry landscape, thought it has a pale sad beauty of its own, is a lost landscape. It is no accident that although he returns, again and again, to the sources of his inspiration, he seldom paints an actual place. Places are transmuted in his mind, and come out strange and far away.

Lowry is more at home with the past than the present, and this is one of the reasons why the Lancashire townscape is congenial to him; for it is itself a survival of the past. Modern Lancashire would be better expressed by the long, low, all-electric factory and the bright new housing estate; but Lowry is not interested in these.

He works long and patiently on every picture. Though his paintings have the awkward stiffness of a child’s, Lowry is not a “primitive”. Neither is there anything of the reformer in him; indeed, a thoroughgoing slum clearance programme in certain parts of Greater Manchester would cut his off from his roots.

Sometimes he paints a landscape - always basically the same one - from the Fylde of West Lancashire, where as a boy he stayed on a farm. There are some curious imaginary landscapes and seascapes, and there is a painting of “Heathcliff’s House” which is unsurpassed as a study in desolation and reminds you that Lowry has a passion (not inappropriate) for Emily Brontë’s work. The only painter whose work he has ever wished to own is Dante Gabriel Rossetti. He likes the music of Haydn. He has never been abroad, and does not mean to go. When he goes to London he spends much time roaming round looking for places that will have the effect on him of the Old Road. But he does not find them; the magic works only in Manchester.

He is unfailingly kind and helpful to younger painters, but he is not likely to start a “school” of imitators. His subjects and mannerisms can be and have been copied, but not his vision. The scenes and people, the phase of the Industrial Revolution that he portrays, are fading into the past. But this part of the past, thanks to him, is always with us.

1964

HOMAGE TO L. S. LOWRY

By M. G. McNay

Until last year L. S. Lowry had never put pencil to paper in Eccles, though you could step into the borough from Salford without even noticing. Yet it is at Eccles that L. S. Lowry’s seventy-seventh birthday will be marked by an extraordinary event in British art: many of the country’s best sculptors and painters are contributing one work each for an exhibition at Monks Hall Museum starting on October 31 in honour of the artist whose birthday is the day after.

They make an impressive list: Henry Moore, Victor Pasmore, Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth, Sir William Coldstream, Carel Weight, John Piper, Josef Herman, Duncan Grant, John Nash, Edward Burra, Anthony Gross, Barbara Fell - to name a few. And Sir Kenneth Clark is writing the foreword for the catalogue.

Monks Hall, a small cannibalised Tudor house which became a museum and art gallery only three years ago (and has only a hundred feet of hanging space), seems an odd place for an exhibition of this sort until you meet the man behind it all, the borough librarian and curator, Mr J. F. W. Bryon. It was he who persuaded the council to buy Monks Hall when the doctor who lived in it retired; and got men to invest in a kiln so that your potters could continue working after leaving college; who cajoled L. S Lowry into doing a couple of drawings of Eccles (the station and the town hall, said to be the second ugliest in Lancashire - the ugliest is at St Helens); who recently ran an exhibition of drawings and models of the work of Maxwell Fry, arguably the finest living British architect.

On a budget of £200 a year (with a further £200 to buy work for the borough) Mr Bryon and the keeper, Mr F. Mullineux (the staff is completed by a caretaker), have organised 18 exhibitions in 34 months. The idea of the Lowry exhibition was given to Mr Byron by the essays philosophers, for instance, contribute to a collection in honour of one of their number who is particularly noted. But this, he thinks, is the first time it has been done by artists. To find out if the idea was feasible, he telephoned Harold Riley, the Salford painter, photographer, and friend of Lowry. Riley, who is sending a painting himself, was immediately enthusiastic and wrote to his old teacher at the Slade, Sir William Coldstream. Sir William wrote that he was delighted with the idea, and did his part by approaching other artists.

Soon the Arts Council heard of the plans and stepped forward with the offer of packing and transport. The council is so taken with the exhibition, in fact, that it wants to send it on tour from Eccles, but that depends on the artists who are lending the work. This is not all. The Hallé plans a concert on Lowry’s birthday; and one of Granada Television’s young directors, Leslie Woodhead, has spent weeks with a small crew making a cinema verité film of Lowry.

There is still a lot of editing to be done, making a 30 or 40 minute programme of the material. Leslie Woodhead promises that when it is finished, Lowry himself and the film will dispel the myth of the naïve painter of primitive industrial scenes, and not necessarily very solemnly.

It all adds up to a notable autumn for the North-west and a triumph for Monks Hall. As for Lowry, he apparently is tickled pink.


THE POP VICTORIANS

If you are thinking of joining the Rossetti Society, look sharp: the qualifications keep disappearing abroad.

To get in you must own a picture by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and he is apparently becoming popular on the Continent. Even some of our institutional galleries haven’t as many Rossettis as they claim: the president of the society has been round them spotting fakes. He is L. S. Lowry and he is particularly well qualified: he has 17 of the master’s works.

The society is based on the Stone Gallery in Newcastle, and two or three years ago that would have been pretty wonderful in itself. The Stone is run by the North’s blunt South countryman, Donald (“Mick”) Marshall, then a stern, unbending modernist who gave short, negative answers to anyone after stuff by dead painters.

Now the round floor of the gallery is devoted to some excellent Victorian paintings and the Marshalls (Mick, his wife Tilly and son Simon) are completely hooked: they are preparing an exhibition by a painter of some very superior 19th century nocturnes, Arthur Grimshaw. It began with Lowry’s interest in the subject. “He knows more about painting than anyone else I know” says Mr Marshall. “We did not go along with enthusiasms at first; then we got caught up with the people rather than their paintings”.

Mrs Marshall became so interested in Rossetti that she did a great deal of research in order to write a play (she used to be an actress), till she discovered that someone else was there before her. From there they became involved with the actual painting itself, and realised that, as usual, Lowry knew what he was talking about.

Mr Marshall sees a great resemblance between Victorian art and modern pop are, and not only because the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood were young men in their twenties. In both cases, 95% of the output is nonsense. “I could sell a great deal of sentimental rubbish if I gave it room in the gallery” he says. “But the best Victorians had a great feeling, great technique. There was a lot of the surrealist, even Dada, about them. And Rossetti was often slightly camp, just like some of the camp pop art of today”.

There are many Pre-Raphaelite and other Victorian pictures in the North-East still in the hands of families originally connected with the painters. “All sorts of people come in here who can identify the artists at a glance. It has nothing to do with any fashion in Victoriana. Fashion in art means damn all up here. But the whole place somehow has a Pre-Raphaelite feeling about it”.


SHY MR LOWRY SAYS: NO SPEECH

Laurence Stephen Lowry, the world famous artist whose stark pictures put industrial Lancashire on the art map, made one condition when he became a city’s 13th freeman yesterday.

The shy 77 year old artist insisted that he did not want to make a speech at the town hall ceremony.

“In fact” said Alderman Sidney Hamburger, leader of Salford City Council, “he more or less told us: ‘If I have to make a speech, count me out.’ It is just part of his unassuming nature.”

Mr Lowry, who lives at Mottram, Cheshire, said later: “I told them I could not make a speech and they were very nice about it. This was a most unexpected honour and I am very gratified.”

Alderman Hamburger praised Lowry’s work in depicting a grimmer, now vanishing Salford scheme, peopled by men and women in caps, muffles and shawls.

Salford has the largest collection of Lowry paintings - 109. The city started buying them in 1936.


HAROLD RILEY, SALFORD ARTIST AND FRIEND OF L S LOWRY, REVIEWS LAST NIGHT’S GRANADA ‘THIS ENGLAND’ PROGRAMME

The trouble with most television documentary films is that they are either made by a journalist and decorated by a photographer, or made by a photographer who believes that curious angles excuse everything.

The film “Mr Lowry” was conceived in a journalistic form by Leslie Woodhead and made in conjunction with Norman Langley, who photographed it from all kinds of curious angles, and in many strange places. But the marriage of minds works successfully. It says much for the film that shot of L S Lowry sitting in Salford Art Gallery reading the Financial times sticks out like a sore thumb as a set up. The rest of the film is exceedingly natural and follows the painter in the most offhand way around his house, in a park, on a train and taxi journey to Mayfair, and back home again. Although it has all be done before, your are never conscious this time of “showing off” and technically there is a quality like passages from a Franco Rossi film.

The intention is to reveal one aspect of Mr Lowry’s life, his concern for his pictures and the financial framework around them. Lowry really is very concerned with what his pictures sell for and at first this might seem off. But it is nothing new. Michelangelo was a famous business man; his letters are nearly all concerned with real estate and prices, and when he died he owned a sizeable portion of the Santa Croce district of Florence. Rubens turned mural painting into a money spinning proposition and the only preserved writing in Rembrandt’s hand is a bill he sent to someone.

So this is not an “art” film or a desire to analyse Lowry’s work, it is merely an intrusion upon his life for a few days. And this is its strength. The objectiveness of the whole thing saves it from being one of those austere and dreary film essays on what the director believes the artist’s work to be all about. The man’s soul is in his paintings and if you want to know about the extrovert man, it is all in this film - well nearly all. The streets are there, his wit, the children and cripples, the plush London gallery. But the sense of isolation is missing. If you know Lowry, he is buried in loneliness and you can feel it without ever looking at his pictures. There was one attempt during the film to show this when you saw his along in the house during the night, painting a seascape, empty except for a single boat away from the land. But this is not enough, because from the total impression the film gives, you would think that Lowry’s life was a full and high pressured as a film star’s, instead of bleak and languid.

The impression of pace is achieved by disjointed cutting to a forced rhythmic tempo. And all the shots are in a close proximity to the artist, giving a claustrophobic sensation which is unfortunate, because claustrophobia is foreign to him: in his painting there are teeming crowds of people but they all have individual space around them. But as a document of what a artist’s person is like it is a fine film and quite rightly shatters all those romantic illusions that people have about a painter’s life. Posterity will be indebted to the makers and I think we should be too.


THE LONELINESS OF L S LOWRY

“Do you like them sir?” No, you can’t! Do you really? Oh, I am pleased.” The man is L S Lowry, humblest and least spoilt of painters, most delightful of men, sipping orange juice in Newcastle’s Stone Gallery before the opening of his new exhibition last Thursday and, at 77, looking disconcertingly like Jacques Tati impersonating General de Gaulle.

The 48 paintings and drawings, mostly done in the last four years, are lent (until 14 November) by Mr Monty Bloom who is one of Lowry’s closest friends and a compulsive collector of his work. What makes this a rather special exhibition is that the Stone Gallery has concentrated , not on the industrial townscapes swarming with tiny pipe cleaner figures by which he is best known, but on the pictures that Lowry himself values most.

These are the smaller paintings of single or grouped figures which show Lowry to be an English satirist (as distinct from caricaturist) in direct line of descent from Hogarth, Rowlandson and Gilray. And a rum lot they are: “Man searching a dustbin”, “Woman with beard”, “Bird looking at something”, Women with twisted mouth“.

Here is Lowry at his most humorous and his most grotesque: above all Lowry pared of charm. “There is a grotesque streak in me and I can’t help it. That’s why I don’t dare paint the Salvation Army, which I’ve often been asked to do. I’m not religious but they do wonderful work. You see. I can’t say why I’m fascinated by the odd, but I know I am”, he said, looking at his bearded lady.

He saw her in a train. “She was rather angry at being sketched but we parted firm friends at Paddington. Oh, she had a worse beard than that, sir”.

People think he invents these weird people. He doesn’t: he just has an eye for them. And like every real satirist he teaches you to see them too. This is alarming. For several days now all railway porters, newspaper vendors, men seated on park benches, not to mention my friends, have been pure Lowry. I once heard him described as an entomologist stalking human insects with his butterfly net.

Lowry has become a collector of people. “At last I feel I’m getting what I’ve wanted. They are real people; sad people; something’s gone wrong in their lives. I’m attracted to sadness. All my life I’ve always found myself wandering into the poorer parts of a town”.

Of course the are also lonely people and Lowry has been among the loneliest of men. And they are usually old people and he is old, too. He left Manchester School of Art in 1909 (“they tried not to look happy”) and lived with his mother in Salford until she died, since then alone. He was 52 before his first one-man exhibition. “There was always something kept me painting - one picture sold in a year was enough”. He first covered his expenses in 1939. He never married.

Loneliness pervades Lowry’s paintings - the solitary houses, the colourless streets, the open sea, the boats, the odd people. Loneliness may also be what has kept his work impersonal, and what saves these recent paintings from mawkish sentimentality. For Lowry has a detached view of people. He feels sorry for them but somehow he is not one of them. He paints them without nostalgia and with an almost heartless absence of pity. His bearded woman, for example, has something of the chill I find in Struwwelpeter.

Praise was a long time coming for Lowry. And he still receives too little credit fir the skill and sensitivity with which he uses paint. Now Morandi is dead, no one I know of can use white as he can. Increasingly he is working with only white - and black: white for space, black for form. “You can make black and white do anything, sir; its incredible”.

And he recounted to me how, in the 1920’s, he had covered a board with white paint, put it aside, and seven years later painter another board with the same white and then compared the two. The first was quite different. Now he allows for all his whites to go slightly creamy with time. For a man so often treated as a naïve Primitive, here is professionalism for you.

“I think I’ll die, sir” he will suddenly say. “There’s nothing left. I’m old. Well ………not till after the private view”. And what about is Tate Gallery retrospective in 1966, one asks with a smile? “How many paintings do you think they’ll want, sir?”

He is enjoying success without a doubt. But it came so late he learnt to do without it. After all”, he says, “no one asked me to paint so why should I expect them to buy?”


LOWRY ON HOLIDAY

By Anthony Tucker

It seems strange that one of the largest private collections of works by L S Lowry is also one of the least known. It belongs to one of Lowry’s lifelong friends, the rev. Geoffrey S Bennett, who lives in West Cumberland and with whom the artist has spent holidays over something like four decades. To the owner the collection is a part of the fabric of his personal life and he has sought no publicity: occasional fragments (from the collection) have appeared in large exhibitions: one painting, “Punch and Judy” of 1943, is very well known; a group of drawings quietly toured the Midlands a year or so ago, but they raised little comment. In any case, the owner missed then as one misses old friends, and was reluctant afterwards to show them again.

Now for the first time, a complete segment of the collection is on view, discreetly and almost inaccessibly tucked away at the Netherhall Centre, Maryport, Cumberland. The exhibition opens today and closes on Wednesday and is both the product and the responsibility of the further education students and their department tutor. The centre has no exhibition facilities but is part of a secondary school. It is the school’s assembly hall which is temporarily crowded with Lowry and one suspects that he would enjoy the children’s grudging, highly critical, praise.

There are 31 works plus a painting of down and outs lent anonymously: paintings, pastels, watercolours, and drawings which range from 1917 to the sixties, through every major phase of the artist’s production. Fine, silvery, irreproducible, pencil drawings of the early twenties; the sharper, more organised tonal drawing and the extremely pure painting of the early thirties; an unusual, find and almost Impressionist unpeeled painting of the late thirties showing St John’s Church, Manchester; satirical groups of the fifties, in which Lowry’s Daumier-like eye suddenly blazes; but, most unusual of all, there are some works made in West Cumberland, where the grey sky has lifted, and where the hand if feather-light and suddenly on holiday.

In one way these are the key to the collection. They are not central to the social seriousness of the artist’s most important production, nor are they of the kind which are sought after as typical and therefore valuable. But they have about them something of the warmth of a friendship, revealing an aspect of Lowry as a person which is removed from his standing image. One day the biographers will beat a track to Cumberland: it is probably this, more than anything else, that the collector fears.


MONEY AND ME - BY L S LOWRY

Talking to Ray Purcell

The painter L S Lowry whose stark scenes of the grim, sad landscape of Lancashire are selling to the fashionable for up to £2,000, threw back his grey head and laughed. “Rich?” he said. “I’m always being asked that. But there’s not much money in this game - and most of what there is goes to the taxman”. The Cheshire artist who is holding an exhibition in London this week said: “Painting is hard work and from a cash point of view not worth doing. If I could be just one of those passive old men who gaze at the fire all day I’d pack it in. but I’m not”. He Laughed. “Looking at me now you wouldn’t think I was so active. But damn it. I’m 77 this year and if I’m not entitled to a rest now and again, I don’t know who is. I paint when I want to and because I want to. Naturally I like my work to sell because it shows people like it and want it. If someone wants to pay £2,000 for a picture I hope he’s not disappointed. But I wouldn’t paint a pot boiler just for the same of selling it. It’s hard lines when an artist has to do this and yet - life’s so odd - sometimes a pot boiler turns out to be as good as a work which has taken years”.

But what of people with their eye to the main chance who are buying Lowrys as an investment with the hope that they will appreciate in value when he dies? “Good luck to ‘em I say” he shouted expansively. “ I haven’t the slightest idea what will happen to my work when I peg out. I may be in some sort of artists’ paradise - there’ll be a rum lot there, won’t there? - and I won’t be interested in what’s going on down here”. He stood up and his hands in the pockets of his baggy charcoal grey suit, walked to the red distempered wall crowded with paintings, four Rossettis - his favourite artist - a Rowlandson, and some of his own work, including portraits of his father and mother. He was wistful now “My big regret is that my pictures started selling so late - when I was in my fifties. If it had happened earlier I could have justified myself to my parents. I remember once saying to my mother “I’m a perfect fool to go on painting like with without getting anywhere”. But she smiled encouragingly and said “You never know son ….” He led the way into his back room studio. On a paint spattered easel was his latest work - a black, long-haired, almost St Trinian-like figure of a girl. “it’s a young actor in Pirandello’s play, ‘Six Characters In Search Of An Author’ which I saw in London and which moved me deeply. it’s the first time I’ve ever done anything about the theatre”.

Other unfinished canvases were scattered round the room. The familiar figures with matchstick legs scurrying past rows of matchbox houses. Work that could be worth a fortune and work of the man who says “I never married because I have never loved. But if I had a son who wanted to be an artist I would tell him ‘Don’t. It’s a seven-day week and you don’t start making any money until other people are drawing their old age pension. Then the tax man swoops. Far better to be a stockbroker’.”

1965

LOWRY THE LEGEND

By Graeme Kay

For 30 years he fought a lone battle for recognition. Now the critics are fighting to shower superlatives on the work of Laurence Stephen Lowry, the 78 year old artist.

They have called him “One of the outstanding British artists of our time” and “Our greatest provincial English painter“.

One critic said “His portrayal of the quickly disappearing Northern industrial scene is profoundly moving and unique”.

His life and work are featured in Tuesday’s This England programme, “Mr Lowry”.

The North may have clasped this “friendly, lovable” man to its bosom but reaction to the great man in Mottram-in-Longdendale, 10 miles east of Manchester, and Lowry’s adopted home, is different.

A misunderstanding arose between Lowry and the Cheshire locals when he was reported as saying “I don’t care for the place, it’s inconvenient. When I came here from Salford I said it was unsuitable and that I’d stay here for only 12 months. That was umpteen years ago. I’m too old to leave now”.

Thus, one or two of the people mutter unkind words like “recluse” and “eccentric”.

His tall, white-haired figure, battered trilby and shabby raincoat are well known in Market Street, Mottram, where he takes his evening strolls. He is best known there by grocer and restaurant-keeper, Jack Greenwood. He said “At first he was just another man visiting my restaurant for meals. Then someone said ‘That’s Lowry, the famous artist’. He’s always been friendly, enjoys a joke and likes to be introduced to other diners. I think he’s a lonely man at heart’. “He’s neither sophisticated nor eccentric in his eating habits. He shares a standing joke with my staff, thought. Every time he comes in he piles the condiments on top of each other on the table”.

The Vicar of Mottram, the Rev. Reginald Roch said “Mr Lowry has never joined in the community life. If he didn’t like Mottram when he first came here, he probably likes it less now. Mottram has become a dormitory for business people. Every square inch of land has been snapped up for development and an overspill estate has sent the population soaring from 3,000 to close on 9,000”.

I set out in search of his home, The Elms, expecting to find an imposing stone mansion or a neat time-mellowed cottage, of which there are scores in Mottram. Instead I found a grey Victorian-type house on the main road. Lowry opened the door to me, beckoned me in, then disappeared quickly into the darkness. He offered me an armchair in a sitting room cluttered with bric a brac and objects d’art. An old radio blared classical music. Lowry has no television set, telephone, motor car or lust for modern living. He has never been abroad, never married and has lived alone for 26 years.

His back room studio was littered with brushes, paint and unfinished canvases. “I’ve no room to move you know but I work better this way”, he said.

I asked him about his reaction to Mottram and its people. “They’re nice folk, I’ve nothing against them” he said. “It’s the place. “Never could take to it. I can’t explain. I’ve often wondered. Sat down for hours and tried to ponder it. It does nothing for me. I know there’s plenty to paint here but I haven’t had the slightest desire to work locally”. He hasn’t worked for six months in fact.

“I’m not going to make a martyr of myself. If people want to know why I’ve stopped, tell then general disinclination and old age. Yes, tell them that” he said and he threw his head back and roared with laughter.

The irony about Lowry is that, despite his almost total absence from the local scene, he claim his favourite pastime is meeting people. Behind the stark local legend of this pillar of the North lay enough warmth, talent, humour and sincerity to make me believe that Mottram might forgive an old man his eccentricities in his twilight years.


LOWRYISMS from Mr Lowry

in Tuesday’s programme This England

When you’re single, you live like a king and die like a dog. When you’re married, you live like a dog and die like a king.

Isn’t there are the beginning of “Pickwick Papers” a cab driver who has a cab with enormous wheels and once he starts he can’t stop? I’m like that. It’s a pitiable story.

I think there’s an extremely fine line between extreme grief and extreme laughter. When I see a person in extreme grief, I can’t tell whether its grief or laughter.

I think the world is full of odd looking creatures if you notice them. They are about if you observe them, as much as ever. They are very pictorial.

I’ve nothing else to do you know. I’ve three times tried to stop and I said I’d have to get something or I’d go mad.

I’ve got up in the morning and worked and gone to bed at night and so on to the end. It’s very uneventful really.


THE 1939 INTERVIEW

During the twenties and thirties - the years of Lowry’s neglect - the “Manchester Guardian” alone among papers and periodicals encouraged him. In 1939 Lowry at last had a major show at the Lefevre Gallery, London. This is what the “Manchester Guardian” critic, the late Eric Newton, had to say of that exhibition.

The Lefevre Gallery has picked three well contrasted artists for its present exhibition. So different are they that the contrast is not merely one of styles; it is a basic difference in their conception of what an artist has to do. Martin Bloch takes his world as he finds it but imposes upon it a luminous tapestry. J D Fergusson takes his world as a starting point for a design and drills it as a sergeant major would drill a squad of raw recruits and by the time he has finished with it, it is performing for him all kinds of rhythmic evolutions that have very little connection with everyday life. L S Lowry broods darkly but affectionately over his corner of the world - the corner that begins a mile or so north of the centre of Manchester and continues northwards until grey factories give place to grey-green fields - and our of it he evolves a kind of fairy story.

Of these three versions of the visual world it is Mr Lowry’s that goes straightest to the heart. Industrial Lancashire, with its narrow streets, its chimneys trailing smudgy banners of smoke, its doorways emitting swarms of children, its grey skies and its grim perspectives, is not a fit subject for a painter in search of the merely picturesque. To be painted properly it must be painted by a man who has been bred and gown up in it, and who either loves it or hates it. Mr Lowry loves it, and every one of his pictures is stamped with affection - the kind of affection that a mother feels for a crippled child. It is this emotional undercurrent that gives Mr Lowry his strength as an artist. Where Fergusson, and to a less degree, Martin Bloch, seem to playing games with their art, the one working out new rhythmic schemes, the other evolving new colour harmonies, Mr Lowry weaves his fairy tales about the industrial North in deadly earnest. They become fairy tales because he passionately believes in fairies.

His groups of people standing at street corners, or of children playing on patches of waste ground, are as real and yet as fantastic as Breughel’s groups of peasants. His rows of slum dwellings or his forbiddingly rectangular factories are as lovely as an architectural background to an Annunciation by a Florentine Primitive. It was high time that Mr Lowry had a one man show in London. As a painter he is big enough to stand up to Fergusson or Martin Bloch; as an interpreter of life he knocks them both into a cocked hat.


MONEY? I’M JUST NOT INTERESTED, SAYS LOWRY

Inflation has laid a heavy hand upon the art world. For proof of this one need to look no further than the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester where 171 paintings by L S Lowry - the artist famous for his Lancashire landscapes - are now on a three week exhibition.

As the keeper of the gallery, Francis Hawcroft, told me “Lowry’s work, like everyone else’s, has probably trebled in value in the last five years. The rise in prices is fantastic”.

The total value of the paintings exhibited falls little short of £50,000 I was informed, but Lowry refused to be impressed by such figures. He looked a somewhat bemused figure in a gaudy first night throng of art dealers, critics and general follows. “Some of this stuff is terrible” he said, waving a hand at his own work. “it’s a retrospective show of a good cross section of my painting, and by that I mean the bad as well as the good. I’m honestly not interested in the money, If I sell a picture for £1,000 what do I get out of it? £250 after everyone has had their cut”.

He does not paint much now. “At 78 you’re too old for this game. I feel I’ve done my job now and see no point in carrying on. Whenever I finish a work I just say ‘Thank God that’s over’ and then get on with what I really like doing - nothing”.

Among Mr Lowry’s favourites at the exhibition are the family portraits, especially one of a father and two sons which would not leave any dealers shop for less than £2,000 and would probably fetch up to £3,000. “I like them”, he explained, “because they take me back a bit. I suppose the best years of my life were those between 1924 and 1936 and that has nothing to do with my art, although these paintings do remind of that time”.

Although Mr Lowry delights in presenting himself to the public as something of a philistine, dressed in a battered trilby and tatty raincoat, the image is slightly spoiled by his confession that “the urge to paint has always been a compulsion with me. I fell in love with the Lancashire landscape when I was a boy and the affair has been going on ever since, which is probably why I never married".

I asked an expert to price a selection of Lowry’s paintings. ‘The Cripples’ he said would be about £4,000. ‘Woman with a beard, around £1,500 whilst the large landscape ‘Bargoed’ might go up to £5,000.

Pricing such pictures is a notoriously tricky business for the only real way to assess the worth of a painting is to see what people are prepared to bid for it and no one is going to let that sort of information out of the bag.


Huddersfield Examiner 4 December

ART FOR ALL

Most people will echo the Council’s congratulations to the Arts Committee on having purchased a painting of Huddersfield by L S Lowry. It is an excellent purchase in many ways - not lease because it shows that the Council is continuing to ensure that the arts have an important place in Huddersfield. Local authorities can do much towards fostering interest in the arts by providing amenities and patronising artistic talent. In this respect. Huddersfield is well provided for.

There is the Tolson Memorial Museum - a really first-rate museum in every way, which would grace a large city, let alone a town, as also would the Art Gallery. Both these collections, moreover, do not rest on their laurels but are always ready to embrace new items and ideas - a fact that is proved by some bold purchases, not least of Henry Moore’s controversial figure.

Art in its several shapes and forms is not for the few, but for all to enjoy. Governments, both at a national and local level, have a duty to the public to ensure that they have the best possible change to enjoy it.

Mr Mark Bonham Carter, lecturing in Huddersfield recently, drew attention to the fact that the total expenditure by the Government on the arts is at present about thirteen and a half million pounds - a sum which represents only 0.2% of its current spending. Recently, however, there have been welcome signs that the Government are prepared to encourage to a greater degree a more general participation in the arts. Huddersfield is helping to show the way. It is to be hoped that the Government will follow their example.


£1,500 PAINTING

Huddersfield Finance Committee has approved a proposal of the Arts Committee to buy a painting of a local scene by L S Lowry, the Northern painter, for £1,500.


CORPORATION BUYS LOWRY VIEW OF TOWN

A PAINTING OF A Huddersfield scene by L S Lowry, the North’s leading painter, is to be bought by Huddersfield’s Arts Committee. It is understood that the picture will cost slightly more than the £1,300 which was paid by the local authority for Henry Moore’s sculpture “Falling Warrior.”

Coun. Douglas Sisson, chairman of the Arts Committee, said yesterday that the picture would be displayed in the Public Art Gallery as soon as the Finance Committee had approved an estimate for its purchase. The painting, typically Lowry, is of the scene from the top of Chapel Hill looking towards Lockwood. It was during Ald. Douglas Graham’s chairmanship of the Arts Committee that Mr Lowry, 78, of Mottram, Cheshire visited Huddersfield to select a subject for his picture. He was shown both Shambles Lane and Victoria Lane but liked neither. Then he stood at the top of Chapel Hill and, looking towards Lockwood, said: “This is a scene of Huddersfield I should like to paint.” During the time he was painting the picture, Mr Lowry was brought to Huddersfield by Mr James L Brooke, a local artist, of Birkby Lodge Road. The two worked together on the project, and Mr Brooke took Mr Lowry back to Mottram at night. As a reward for his services Mr Lowry gave Mr Brooke a sketch drawing he had made of the “View from Chapel Hill”. Mr Brooke said: “It is almost identical with the picture that has been bought.” Mr Brooke is probably the only man in Huddersfield to possess a Lowry painting.

1966

MR LOWRY COMES TO THE TATE

Tate Gallery, L S Lowry, retrospective exhibition until January 15

By A P MAGUIRE

Mr Lowry has come to town on a ate and quite a special visit, to attend the private view of a large exhibition of his works at the Tate. There he was at the gallery yesterday, a rugged man of gently manner, talking cheerfully and courteously to visitors.

He has come from his home at Mottram, which stands high like a buttress between Lancashire and Derbyshire, overlooking Longdendale where a spur of Cheshire thrusts far into the West Riding in the country of the South Pennines where he lives at ease with his surroundings.

Mr Lowry and all who visit the show must admire the manner in which it is set out, not split up in various rooms, but in an effectively screened space in the main hall, 60 yards or so long. The Arts Council and all concerned deserve praise for the arrangement.

Within the entrance on the left is a selection of Lowry’s early works, which could be called academic and include a striking self portrait of the artist done in 1925. Henry Moore in his turn learned the basic technique of his trade in tradition and disciplined style.

There are 171 works in this show and only a fool would try to generalise about them. Of curse there are the familiar little figures of people. Some critics glibly call these ant-like, but they are surely human, related to each other and to their background.

They are seen in the snow and in the spring against factory and fairground settings. Purely North Country, casual observers would say, but no, they are seen also in Piccadilly Circus, a little smarter perhaps in this place than in the urban approaches to the Pennines, but still active and eager.

All this, however, represents not one half of the scope of the work of Lowry who rejoices in ponds, streams and the seashore. He likes painting islands and boats. He has his jokes, of course, as aalims man must have who smiles so readily. There is, for instance, No. 80 in the catalogue “Man lying on a wall”. That is precisely what the picture shows, a man lying on his back on a low brick wall behind which rise two chimneys and a clock tower. Propped against the wall are the man’s umbrella and his brief case and on the brief case are the initials LSL.

Much will be written and said about this major exhibition by a leading British artist. His age - 79 - will be mentioned although perhaps that may not matter for some of the best artists have produced fine work well beyond that mark. The significance if his art will be discussed in relation to sociological trends.

Some of us prefer to think of L S Lowry as a warm hearted man who is an exceptionally gifted artist and with delight paints what he sees around him and then goes father to paint still more.


NO STAMP OF APPROVAL FOR LOWRY

Mr James Fitton, the white-bearded Royal Academician, has decided views on how British contemporary art should be represented on our postage stamps and it is not with the work of L S Lowry, a fellow R.A. and painter of pin men workers in the foreground of smoking mill towns.

It is a very real problem. Because Mr Edward Short, the Postmaster General, announced two months ago that there will be an issue stamps in July on British art. He hoped there would be a contemporary artist’s work represented among he designs. “The suggestion has been that we represent British contemporary works with a painting of Lowry’s”. says Mr Fitton, chairman of the G.P.O’s Stamp Advisory Committee. “I think it would be crazy. I’m a great admirer of Lowry, but with the international kind of publicity these stamps will bring, do we really, in this age of automation and getting our economy on a right footing, want to advertise the slums and smoking chimneys of Salford? Surely it would be more sensible to have a piece of sculpture by Henry Moore. But as this issue will be restricted to four stamps, I think we should wait for a special issue devoted to contemporary art when we could include a cross section including a Lowry and, perhaps Sutherland and Moore”.


MR LOWRY KEEPS TRYING TO RETIRE

A display at GPO headquarters yesterday of three special stamps, reproductions of famous British paintings, was slightly overshadowed by Mr L S Lowry, now 79. His painting ‘Children coming out of school’ is on one of the stamps and from the start he was the centre of attraction. “It’s rather frightening to think of so many people seeing your work every day” he said playfully. “I wonder what people will say? Oh dear, what a thought. I painted the picture in 1927, you know, the dark old days. I can’t remember where the school was, but it doesn’t matter. I’m sure it’s gone. They’ve pulled everything down in Manchester. I suppose the children are going to a comprehensive school now. I know its in the name of progress, but I think all this change is terrible.”

Mr Lowry’s painting will be reproduced on a 1s 6d stamp for issue on July10. Much of the painting is lost in its reduction to a postage stamp size but the Lowry touch is evident and recognisable. The colours - yellow, red, blue, grey, black and gold - are delicately shaded and the strange, match-like figures can be picked out easily.

The two other British artists whose paintings will accompany Lowry’s are Sir Thomas Lawrence, the late Georgian portrait painter, and George Stubbs. The Lawrence painting, ‘Master Lambton’ will be on a 3d stamp and the Stubbs ‘Mares and Foals in a Landscape’ on a 9d stamp.

Mr Lowry, drawing himself up to his full height of nearly 6ft stood beside the three special stamps for photographers. He seemed to enjoy himself, joking with everyone. “I am staying in an hotel in Sunderland until September” he said. “I am trying to retire, you see, but my friends won’t let me so I’ve gone to the North-East to have a rest. I love it up there. it’s the perfect place to retire to.”

For one serious moment he discussed British painters, particularly his companions. “Both Lawrence and Stubbs are great painters”, he said. “They have stood the test of time but they are not my favourites. Rossetti has always been a favourite and so has Burne-Jones.” Among the modern young painters he especially likes the work of Sheila Fell, a Cumberland artist.


1s 6d STAMPS NOW SOLD FOR £5

Several 1s 6d stamps depicting British paintings and issued in July by the Post Office are being sold in a London stamp dealer’s shop - for £5 each. A spokesman for Stanley Gibbons, the dealers, said they knew of five sheets, each with 120 stamps, which were faulty. Two grey stripes along the sides of the stamps are missing. The first faulty stamp appeared in Cricklewood, London. “It may be that there are many others and that people are holding on to them”, the spokesman said. “If more came on to the market the value could depreciate.”

1967

STIFLED

Now in his 80th year the Manchester-born artist, L S Lowry, is turning his thoughts towards the future of his own collection of his work. He is not sure how many of his paintings cover the walls of his cottage in Mottram-in-Longdendale on the Cheshire-Derbyshire border. “I haven’t quite decided who I’m going to leave them to, but I have someone in mind. But I don’t know whether the person will do right by the paintings”. Mr Lowry told me yesterday, “I want them to remain as a private collection. I may chance it and do nothing”. Included in the collection are a dozen works of the pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti. “My favourite artist. I have one room full of them” said Mr Lowry. The brush of this Royal Academician, famed for his industrial landscapes, is being stifled by the taxman. “I’m doing nothing at the moment. There’s no point in giving it all away to the taxman is there? I’m very happy being idle” said Mr Lowry, whose paintings fetch up to £6,000 each. “As it is I’m only painting four or five a year”.

MY LONELY LIFE

By L S LOWRY

The Northern painter on a career in which the important thing is that very few important things happened

(Told to Edwin Mullins who has assisted in the Lowry retrospective opening at the Tate on Saturday)

It was suggested I went for art as I was fit for nothing else. My father was an estate agent, my mother an accomplished pianist and an invalid. We lived in Rusholme, a suburb of Manchester, and I was their only child.

At school I had few friends and I never passed any exams. Time went on and on and on, until finally an aunt remembered that I’d drawn little ships when I was eight years of age. So that was that. It was any port in a storm. As we lived in Manchester I went to the Manchester School of Art, in 1905, and stayed there a great many years - I suppose about ten years in all. I liked the school because it meant meeting people and normally I’m very unsocialable, I’m afraid. Sometimes I’ve felt I’d like to go back to art school now. But eventually they did suggest I leave, so I did, and they tried not to look happy.

At art school we did free-hand, light and shade, preparatory antique, full-length antique and life. No design. Afterwards I suppose I would have taught in the normal way I never intended to paint pictures, you know. I didn’t want to do any work - ever! But then I got strangely fascinated by those antique casts. I think that must have started it. I did little sketches of then my teacher, Mr A Valette, thought there was something in it, he didn’t know what. It all came up on me gradually and during the holidays I started painting landscapes that nobody wanted, and portraits that nobody wanted..

In 1909, when I was 22, we moved from the residential side of Manchester to Pendlebury, which was a suburb of Salford and as industrial as could at. At first I didn’t like it at all. It took me six years. Then I got used to it and after that interested. I wanted to depict it. I couldn’t recollect that anyone else had ever done it before. Finally I became obsessed by it, and I did nothing else for 30 years….. Apart from the industrial areas of Manchester, Stanley Houghton’s play about Lancashire life “Hindle Wakes”, which Lowry saw in 1912, made a deep impact on him. Until 1915 his work remained Impressionist in manner. Between 1915 and 1920 he established the conventions of figure drawing by which his work now so well know.

…….To begin with I did a lot of studies of little figures, drawing them as well as I could. I didn’t know they had big feet until people told me. I was doing the industrial scheme as I saw it. The figures got better with practice. They got movement. For a great many years, when I was very active, I used to visit all the industrial towns and stop a couple of nights in each. Huddersfield, in particular, I’d go back to. I always gravitated to the poorer areas. It wasn’t that I felt sorry for those people - they were just as happy as anyone else, as certainly as happy as I was. I didn’t draw there - Oh, I might have made quick sketches - I just went and looked round and thought. When it came to painting I really liked to do imaginary compositions in my room. I used to start in the morning in front of a big white canvas and I’d say “I don’t know what I’m going to do with you but by the evening I’ll have something on you”.

In the 1920’s I did a lot of drawing in Salford. There were special parts I liked, a bit Georgian, older than the rest. My favourite places were houses built round factories. They just attracted me more than others. I cannot explain it. But all those places I used to draw have come down in the last five years …

Then Lowry remembered there was one left and we promptly drove in the direction of Salford. It was a grim tenement block, scaly with fire escapes and squatting incongruously in an open space like a car left abandoned. One end of this building was strangely curved in the manner of ship’s stern. The streets around it were narrow and cobbled.

…There we are! Orsdall Lane Dwellings. It’s the only one left. 1927 I came here. I’d stand for hours on just this spot where we are now and scores of little kids who hadn’t had a wash for weeks would come and stand round me. There was a niff, too. The Tate Gallery has the picture I did of it now. Later I often used to come here and take another look. What was that line of Sheridan? “There’s nothing so noble as a man of sentiment”.

I’m attracted to decay I suppose, in a way to ugliness, too. A derelict house gets me. Until very recently I’ve been going to London once a month for 50 years - I had an aunt there for a long time - but I did almost no work in London , except one of St Luke’s church, Old Street. I’d been told it had the ugliest spire in the world so naturally I had to go and look at it.

I’ve done one or two things of the Thames as well. I’m very fond of ships. The sea, too, I love. To watch it is like letting off steam, its so vast. But generally I put nothing on the sea when I paint it. Perhaps a tiny boat if I must. I’m particularly fond of watching large ships coming into harbour or being brought down a river by tugs. I love the Tyne for that reason. It’s a wonderful river. Yet somehow I just can’t paint a ship entering a harbour as I would like to. I’ve never mastered it, and it worries me.

When I started painting industrial scenes 50 years ago I painted then very dark. But when I showed them to Bernard Taylor, who was then art critic of the Manchester Guardian he said “Now put them up against the wall” and, of course, they both looked equally black. I was very cross with him. Then I started painting crowds against a practically white background and he said “That’s right and you’ve lost nothing in quality” and I had to agree with him.

I’ve grown increasingly fond of whites. I began to notice how they changed with time. I remember it was in 1924, I got a little piece of wood and painted it flake white six times over. Then I let it dry and sealed it up and left it like that for six or seven years. At the end of that time I did the same thing again on another piece of board, opened up the first piece I’d painted and compared the two. (It was the only thing my father was interested in about my painting). The recent one was, of course, dead white but the first has turned a beautifully creamy grey-white - and then I knew what I wanted. So you see the pictures I’ve painted today will not be seen at their best until I’m dead will they?

But you know there are such simple things I still cannot do. Only the other day there was something I couldn’t get right, and while I was struggling a 15-year old called on me. “You’ll have to take those figures out at the top, won'ts you?” she said straight away. “Go on! Take then out now while I’m here. You can always put them back in afterwards. You’re a strange man, Mr Lowry. What did you ever put them in for?” So I did as she said. “Now you can put one or two figures at the side, but not at the top. Can’t you see?” Of course she was right, but I hadn’t been able to see it.

Had I not been lonely, none of my work would have happened. I should not have done what I’ve done, or seen the way I saw things. I work because there’s nothing else do to. Painting is a marvellous way of passing the time and very interesting when you get into it.

Between 1909 and 1939, when I had my first exhibition, there’s really nothing to tell. After about 1909, when we moved house, I lost sight of everybody. I had no close friends at all. I’ve never been married. I’ve never had a girl, in fact and now I’m nearly 80 I think its too late to start. There was one girl - at art school. We met in life class for three years and used the same railway station to go home. It went on like that. When the summer holidays came we’d say “see you again in October”. I never thought of arranging to see her and one October we wasn’t there and that was the end of it. I think I must have been what they call a “cold fish”. even now I usually prefer to be by myself. I didn’t even notice there was a Great Slump. It Didn’t come into my curriculum. My mother died in 1939 and I know it sounds ridiculous and sentimental to say so but I’ve never felt much interest in life since then ..

Since 1948 Lowry has lived alone on the farthest outskirts of his native Manchester, on the edge of the moors. His house in Mottram-in-Longdendale is bleak, dark, cluttered, full of clocks. The garden is not kept up. Like his work, Lowry’s house is almost without colour.

…I’ve no scenic sense whatever. One place is much like another to me. Some years after the second world war a friend said “Why not come to Mottram? I know you don’t like the place, but that won’t make any difference to you”. So I went for 12 months and I’ve stayed here ever since. But it’s a dreadful place. I can’t think why I stay here.

Going back to the 1930s - I said that nothing had happened in my life for 30 years until my first exhibition in 1939. But that’s not quite true. I did show here and there and in 1927 a dealer wrote very nicely to say he’d been seeing my work in the Salon d’Automne in Paris and he felt he could sell some of it. I was then 40, and no dealer had ever approached me before (nor would again for another 11 years). He said he was going away for a few weeks and would get in touch, He never did. I thought it was shabby. Many years later I asked a gentleman who I thought might know about him “Very sad, wasn’t it?” he replied. “Oh didn’t you know? He died”. Yes, he’d been going in for an operation when he wrote to me and had passed away a week later. I’ve never judged a man for not answering letters since.

Some years later again, it must have been in 1933, another dealer did write to me - come to think of it - to say he’d like a show of my work. He too felt sure he could sell them. But by then I couldn’t be bothered and with what the Iron Duke called “masterly inactivity” I did nothing. Of course I often used to wonder if I’d every make any money. I was living at home so it wasn’t urgent but every now and then I felt thoroughly fed up and I’d say “This is ridiculous, I’ll take a job”. But I didn’t like the thought of going to the office with a bag in my hand at half past nine every morning and then some little sale would come along - there were always a few private buyers in Manchester and Salford - and that was enough to keep me going for another year.

Very, very few people liked my work at all. As a younger man I used to do portraits. There’s one in the Salford Art Gallery now that originally I’d done specially to please the man. I thought it was all sweet but his wife said she wouldn’t have it in the place so it stayed in the attic for 43 years - never once down! Then he died and his son didn’t like it either so I got it back and gave it to Salford. It’s very said you know.

I was in 1938 that things at last changed for me. The dealer, Alexander Reid of the Reid and Lefévre Gallery saw some paintings of mine in the floor of Bourlet’s., the framers and packers. They used to send them round the exhibitions and nearly all of them would come back unsold. Bourlet’s told him there was a roomful of them upstairs. “Send them all round to the gallery”, he said. He was quite excited. So he gave me a show a few months later in 1939 and I sold about 16. My God, it was dreadful. It nearly gave us all apoplexy at home. Our brains almost weren’t powerful enough. The Tate bought one. I got more pleasure out of that first show of mine than out of anything else in art. Looking back I don’t know what I would have done if I’d not had that show. I think I couldn’t have kept going much longer. By 1939 I was already losing interest a bit. I was 52, you know, although I don’t resent having to wait that long. No one ever asked me to paint. They didn’t owe me anything. As it is, I often feel I should have dropped out about 1945, the time of my third exhibition. I’d done what I’d set out to do. I had proved my point - that there was subject matter for painter in the industrial scheme. Perhaps I should have stopped then.

Some years later the Royal Academy suggested I join them. I was a bit surprised. I’d hardly ever sent anything up to their Summer Exhibitions - about twice in 25 years/ I didn’t think I was the kind of man they would want. “Can we put your name down?” the Secretary said to me. “Yes”, I replied, “if it would give you any pleasure2. I was very pleased, thought, to be elected an A R A in 1955 and later an R A. I got great respect for the Royal Academy. Money? It has come too late. I’ve never been abroad and now I don’t want to travel. Naturally I feel pleased that my pictures fetch several thousand pounds at auction. They are all over the world now and that’s good enough for me. I could go off now and forget about painting. I’m not dedicated, you know, not dedicated at all. I’ve never felt like some artists, who take it all frightfully seriously. I go long stretches without doing any. There’s nothing in my life, except what I’ve said. I never robbed a bank, or shot someone or married. I’m really a man without ambition. Now I’m waiting and not caring. People are gone and the worst is that you think that when people go the places will stay the same. But they change too and that’s very sad.

Now I have music. That’s tremendously important to me in my old age. Bach, Bellini, Donizetti, Beethoven, Vivaldi, Haydn. Bellini, in particular. I’ve acres of him on records. When the Hallé Orchestra were to do a special concert for me, they asked me for my choice of music and I said Bellini. But they couldn’t. they’d no singers for him, they said.

As for my Rossetti paintings all round this room - he’s the one man whose work I have ever wanted to possess. I said to my father “I wish you’d buy me a Rossetti painting”. Now I’ve got about 12. I have always been fascinated by certain types of women he painted. I’m a Victorian all right, you know.

At art school the Impressionists were just beginning to come in. There was an exhibition in Manchester, I think it was 1908. I liked them up to a point but I didn’t see the battle of life in them. But I saw it in Daumier all right. I thought very much of him. But I don’t go to art shows as I should. I just do my stuff as best I can in my own house and then I go and see my friends who are stockbrokers and so forth. I often think I should have been a stockbroker and not an artist …..

During the past ten years Lowry has tended to abandon his panoramic mill scenes and massed figure subjects in favour of close up studies of strange, individual figures described with a distinctly grotesque humour. Lowry generally as a story about each of them.

……It just happened that way. Everything in my life has just happened. There’s a grotesque streak in me and I can’t help it. My characters? They are all people you might see in a park. They are real people, sad people, something’s gone wrong in their lives. I’m attracted to sadness and there are some very sad things you see. There is something about these people that is remarkable, you know. They have a look in their eye. You wonder what they are really looking at. There is mystery about them. I feel I am compelled to try and draw them. I wonder all the time, what is their life? They are dreadfully sad. One day I met a man in a park and he reeked of beer. Would you like to give me tuppence?” he said. “I haven’t had anything to eat or drink for two days”. I said “no” and he laughed. I gave him a shilling. Later on I met him again on the other side of Manchester. It was like a meeting of Welling and Blücher - until I asked him about his life and he shut up like a clam.

They are not always so friendly, I think you know my painting called “The Contraption”. I came across that thing during one of my perambulations. There was this man travelling slowly along in an extraordinary upright box on wheels. I followed it. I couldn’t help it, the man had the face of a poet. Suddenly he stopped and turned on me “What the bloody hell are you following me about for?” and plenty more of like language. I felt a fool.

You see I’m a very lonely man. But I like to be lonely. I can go where I please. I don’t have to worry about any body. One penalty of being successful is that now I’m worried by young people coming to see me. They have to do a thesis and they seem to choose me. Today I don’t seem to get any rest and that is why music is so important to me and, of course, these clocks. There are nine of them in this room and others all over the house. They come from my old home, my mother’s collection. They all keep different times but you get used to it. You have to be thankful they go at all at that age.

RECORD PRICES

An old painting by the late Sir Alfred Munnings was sold at Christies yesterday by Mr David Astor for £12,600. This is a world record price at auction for a Munnings. The painting which was bought by a Bond Street dealer was done at Manton in 1936 of horses (“Traffic Light”, “Rhodes Scholar” and “Early School”) belonging to the late Lord astor’s father.

A painting by L S Lowry called “Sunday Afternoon” (Peel Park, Salford, is the basis for it) was sold by Mr J K Foy and bought by a Bond Street dealer for £7,875. This is the highest price ever paid for a Lowry. It was painted only in 1957 and was in the recent Tate Gallery’s exhibition of Lowry’s work.

The two paintings were in a sale of modern British drawings, paintings and sculpture at Christies which fetched a total of £53,730.

1968

Yorkshire Post, Sunderland 2 September

GUESTS FLEE FROM HOTEL BLAZE

A number of guests, including L S Lowry, 80, the artist, rushed from a blazing seaside hotel in their nightclothes early yesterday. The staff of the Seaburn Hotel, Co. Durham, guided 63 guests across a car park to an annexe where they stayed for an hour while five fire engines fought a blaze in a ground floor lounge. Ambulances stood by a firemen wearing breathing apparatus searched rooms to make sure all the guests had left. Two visitors were overcome by smoke and taken to hospital for treatment.

An hotel spokesman said “The fire was discovered by a night porter. The staff wakened all the guests and led them down smoke filled staircases to safety.” Mr Lowry, who lives at the hotel, left after the blaze to visit friends in Yorkshire. An hotel spokesman said “He often goes away for a day or two without leaving a forwarding address.”

A fire brigade spokesman said the cause of the blaze which destroyed furniture and fittings in the buffet lounge is not yet know.

1970

Manchester Evening News, Wednesday 8 July

LOWRY’S BEST IS SOLD FOR £16,000

The painting which world famous Lancashire artist L S Lowry considers his best work, “Good Friday, Daisy Nook”, was snapped up in less than a minute for £16,000 by an art dealer at an auction at Sotherbys in London today.

The price was a record for one of Lowry’s paintings. It more than doubled the previous highest price of over £7,000.

The picture which depicts Good Friday Fair held at Daisy Nook between Droylsden and Failsworth, which Lowry painted in 1946, was one of 12 which formed the collection of Lowry paintings owned by the late D A W Laing which realised a total of £48,520 when they came under the hammer in the auctioneers world famous Bond Street saleroom.

A hush of expectation fell over the large and fashionable crowd of bidders when the 30in by 40in canvas in a gilt frame was placed on the stand. Auctioneer Mr Paul Thompson started the bidding at £5,000 and within seconds the price had leapt in multiples of £500 to double that figure.

Mr Lowry has referred to the picture as his greatest. It was used as a colour frontispiece for the catalogue of a retrospective exhibition of Lowry’s works held in the Tate Gallery in 1966. It depicts in typical Lowry low key colouring the crowd which is at the fair every year.

The painting was bought by the London art dealers, Crane Kalman, who have dealt with a lot of Mr Lowry’s work in the past. Mrs M Laing, the sister in law of Dr Laing’s widow who had put the pictures up for auction, said “I am not an art collector and I had no idea of their worth. Mrs Laing asked me to come up. I like them and I have seen them frequently in their house at Droylsden and I am very sad to see them go”.

Another Lowry collector, who came down from Lancashire specially for the auction, is Mr Monty Bloom. He said “Dr Laing’s collection contained some of Lowry’s best paintings. He was an early friend and collector”. Mr Bloom bought one of the paintings showing a street scene.


Manchester Evening News, Wednesday 12 August

HIS FAITH IN LOWRY PAID OFF

By Stuart Gilles

When art dealer Mr Andre Kalman set up a record price for an L S Lowry picture by bidding £16,000 at Sotherbys a few weeks ago for the Lancashire artist’s “Good Friday, Daisy Nook”. it was similar to an ex-world champ winning back his title crown.

For Mr. Kalman it had all happened once before. That was in 1960 when the stakes were lower and the picture was different. His successful record bid then was £230 for a Lowry mill scheme. “Today it would fetch between seven and eight thousand pounds”, he says.

Mr Kalman’s successful offer for the “Good Friday” painting means far more to him than just another item that his gallery in London’s fashionable Brompton Road has handled. The £16,000 bid is for him the vindication of a faith in Lowry’s work which he has cherished since his very early days in business as an art dealer in Manchester. Mr Kalman, who presents a gentle, earnest nature with a dapper figure, was aware when he bid that the picture would not be in his possession long. “I had received a telephone call from a client before the auction and had been told not to miss it”.

The picture is now owned by business tycoon, Mr Ronald Lyon, and is a prominent item in his private collection housed in London.

Mr Kalman’s long standing admiration of Lowry has brought with it a bond of friendship with the artist. When he married - Mrs Kalman comes from Bolton - Lowry gave him a portrait of a clown as a wedding gift. “I asked him to paint a claim, but he could not, he said, because he did not know what a clown looked like. He asked an eight year old girl to paint a claim and he copied her picture”, Mr Kalman said.

Most people in Manchester today would agree with Mr Kalman’s high opinion about Lowry’s work but he remembers when times were very different. He opened his gallery in a converted air raid shelter in 1949 in South King Street which he rented for £2 a week. This was 10 years after he had first arrived in Britain from his native Hungary to study at university. Mr Kalman stayed in Britain during the war and after going back to Hungary for spell, returned to set up his business. He recalls, “They used to come into the gallery for a laugh. There was frequent controversy in the Manchester papers. Lowry was ridiculed and works of Graham Sutherland, Henry Moor and others received similar treatment. I used to ask £80 for a Lowry and they used to say ‘I can get a bus to Salford for 2d and see what he paints’ he said. One man bought a Lowry for £60. “He dared not take it home. He kept it in his office. He still has the picture and it is now worth thousands”, said Mr Kalman.

With such an apathetic attitude he found it tough going in Manchester. On Fridays it was not unusual for him to pawn the gallery’s typewriter so that he could pay his secretary’s wages. During the weekend he would give tennis lessons - he has played for Lancashire - at 7s 6d an hour so that he could redeem it on the following Monday.

Mr Kalman first met Lowry in his Manchester gallery. “He presented a strange figure as he stumbled down the steps. We started to talk and after an initial reticence became friendly and we met regularly. I liked him enormously. He is a very profound, strange human being, far deeper than people credit him but also very compassionate and generous”. As an artist, Mr Kalman says he is unique. “He is a great freak in the history of painting. No one in the world is comparable with him”. In Mr Kalman’s assessment, Lowry’s paintings are better than Utrillo’s and there is no reason whey his works should not fetch Utrillo-type prices in time of about £30,000.

After 10 years in Manchester Mr Kalman decided to move to London. Exhibitions he had staged there had met with more success than he was getting in the North. Much of the gallery wall space is still occupied by works of Lowry. In spire of his later success, Lowry’s pictures remain one of his great loves. Mr Kalman feels that Manchester should have taken steps by now to ensure it has a museum dedicated to the artist.


Manchester Evening News

IF YOU HAPPEN TO HAVE £5,000 TO SPARE

A painting by L S Lowry is to be auctioned in Manchester of 18 September and is expected to fetch more than £5,000. It was painted in 1960 and belongs to a man who has been collecting paintings for many years. ‘Old Church Street and Steps’ shows a former Middleton church which is now used by a clothing manufacturer. The Lowry - and paintings by other artists - will be sold at Manchester Auction Mart, Atkinson Street, Deansgate.

LOWRYS STOLEN

An oil painting and a drawing by L S Lowry were among works valued at more than £15,000 stolen from a house in Hale Road, Hale Barns, near Manchester. The painting “Family Group Hulme 1944” is valued at £12,000.

THE QUIET WAS SHATTERING

By Joe Steeples

Laurence Stephen Lowry is one of those cantankerous, eccentric and whimsical people born to give PR men ulcers. God bless him.

Yesterday the grand old man of English art was wheedled out in his raincoat and carpet slippers from his house in Mottram-in-Longdendale to give gloss to the launching of Mervyn Levy’s book ‘The Paintings of L S Lowry’.

Reporters and hangers on corralled him in an upper room at Salford Art Gallery, craning and eager to record something ….. anything ….. from the artist’s lips. All Mr Lowry gave them were some observations on the weather, a request for a cup of tea, an off sentence or two, and lots and lots of measured quiet. Mr Lowry is the master of the studied pause.

The highlight of yesterday’s performance came when an eager young man from BBA Radio thrust out his microphone and inquired ‘Would you like to say something for the BBC?’ Mr Lowry blinked and considered and said ‘No’ and that was that. If only other artists would copy the style we would be spared all those long statements, long winded, arrogant, complex and nonsensical that those like Mr Warhol tend to make. As Mr Levy aptly points out in his book ‘The bigger the artist the less it seems he has to say’.

In fact Lowry is a man of great humour, a mocker of great individuality. Somehow it is appropriate that when Liverpool University made him an honorary Litt.D yesterday the ceremony took place in the seclusion of his draughty front room.

In all the eager crush at the book launch, the row over the siting of the Lowry memorial gallery bubbled on. In the Salford corner, Mr Stanley Shaw, curator of the Salford Art Gallery, condemned the suggestion that Manchester should house the memorial as ‘lacking sensitivity and good taste’. But if Mr Lowry was fed up he was not saying so, only looking so. When pressed to give his view on the argument he said ‘It is nothing to do with me at all. I’m not worried about what they do with my works but I would like some sort of memorial at Manchester University because I am a Manchester man’.

After that it was back to sipping team and long silences. Clumped in his raincoat like a benign uncle who occasionally puts his tongue out at the kids for devilment. My only question to him got the full slow fade treatment. ‘It must have been a good day’, I ventured. ‘No, it’s been quite wet’ he replied.


LOWRY CAPTURES SENSE OF WIT IN DRAB SURROUNDINGS

By Terence Mullaly

If ever there was in individualist in British art it is Lowry. But that he is also much more is proved by the exhibition which has just opened in the Crane Kalman Gallery, 178 Brompton Road. On view until 6 December are paintings ranging back to 1922 and including some of his best known works and loans from private collections.

They confirm that Lowry is, in fact, anything but a naif. He is, indeed, a vastly accomplished artist, who has for all time coloured attitudes towards industrial Britain.

Now there is a movement to establish a museum in Manchester devoted to his work. It will be foolish in the extreme if such a museum does not come into being.

In the exhibition Lowry is seen to combine wonderfully shrewd powers of observation with sympathy for those who live in what are often appallingly draft circumstances. What he, from the first, has succeeded in capturing is a sense of the links between man and his environment. Beyond this Lowry conveys suggestions of that liveliness of spirit which makes tolerable even the most drab of surroundings. He has that gift of wit, rate in any art. At the same time Lowry commands painterly skills. In the earliest works at the gallery he conveys a feeling for the heavy, foul atmosphere of our industrial cities before the age of pure air campaigns while in a more recent painting there is a breadth of design.

1972

Daily Mail, Saturday 29 January

WHY I’M NEVER GOING TO PAINT AGAIN

By L S Lowry
Talking to Shelley Rohode

Laurence Stephen Lowry has shut himself down. Today, as the looms and frames of Lancashire rattle into infinite silence, the artist who was the spirit of it all declares himself, finally, a voluntary redundant in a world he neither knows not seeks to understand.

“It is”, he says, pleased to have found the modern idiom, “a sit-in. A one-man strike. Its not so much that I felt I deserve a rest. Its just that I’m going to take one - and the devil take everyone else”. and he laughs, a great explosion of noise that splutters, inevitably, into a throaty cough. “No matter how much they ask me, and believe me they do, I’ll paint no more. No more pictures with all those little figures. No more mill scenes. No more serious work. I wouldn’t do it for anything. It’s all right to go out on an afternoon and do a little sketch, to doodle. That’s different. Anything else is work and I’m not very fond of work. Now that I’m on my 85th year I’ll do just what I like doing best, exactly what I’m doing now“, he says, settling himself deeper into his armchair, his eyes half hooded with age, a shambling grey mountain of a man, his long legs stretched before him in absolute repose.

Here, in an old, grey stone house on the windy fringes of the Derbyshire Peaks, he lives alone, a bachelor, with his 14 clocks and the cobwebs that fray on the dadoes of the tall ceilings. He comes to the door, reluctantly, the keys jangling in his hands, the opening prolonged in the hope that, given time, the intrusion on peace and privacy will go away.

Meanwhile, of course, the prices of his pictures spiral into five figures and the bear in his den proclaims his disinterest. “I don’t see the money”, he grunts, playing the cantankerous part he pretends to at times, “I get no benefit from a sale at all. But I suppose I’m glad they’ve gone up. It’s better than walking into a junk shop and finding them upside down on the floor with 30 bob marked on the back, frame and all”, and he laughs again, his blue eyes, weaker now, like autumn skies, open wide behind the gold-rimmed glasses. “But I’ve never sold for five bob you know. At first, of course, my works didn’t sell and my friends thought I was batty to paint at all. I think I even thought it was mad. Bur it was something I had to do, so I went on. Then, when I was about fifty, it happened. They began selling at £25 of £30 - and that’s worth £250 in today’s money”.

He paused again, a monosyllabic man who believes in wasting nothing, not even words. Any pride that filters through his sparse phases is the pride of a turner at his lathe, the workman at his craft. “Painting”, he says, “is a job like any other, not a heaven-sent mission. Perhaps it is a gift, but then everybody’s got a gift. It’s just the make up of the individual. I’m sure even Shakespeare just turned it on, like a tap. I don’t know where it comes from”, and he sits, staring at the huge hands splayed on his knees. He taps his head thoughtfully. “It’s all in there” he says. “Things just come into my head. I draw like a child would draw - entirely out of my head. Or I did, when I was mad enough to do it. That’s a very simple story. In 1909 I moved with my parents from a residential part of Manchester to a very industrial part, and I disliked it very much. Then, curiously, it all began to grow on me and I thought I would try to put it on the map. That, I hope, is what I did. Then the cotton trade went and, without being sentimental about it, once the mill scenes had gone, so had my interest. It’s sad. I don’t go back any more. All the people I knew have gone, and the places have changed. That’s what is worrying me. Perhaps its because I’m getting ancient, I was born in 1887. I have never been abroad, not even felt the slightest desire to go. The only time I leave home - and there is nothing to keep me here any more - is to visit friends. Friends are one of the most important things in life. Health first, then friends” and he reaches out, touching the wood of an old oak chest. “It has always been people that have interested me. People to paint and people to know. But now I have done it all. To go on would only be to repeat myself. I have painted from childhood to childhood and now it is time to stop. I have done a lot and I’m very glad I got it all off my chest”.


EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW BY GEOFFREY WINTER

“I’m absolutely, utterly and completely fed up ….. fed up to the teeth. I’m not 25 or 55, I’m 85 and I want a bit of peace”. Laurence Stephen Lowry, whose paintings are prized throughout the civilised world, appeared to be in the blackest of moods. Nonetheless, he invited me into his house in Mottram, Cheshire and agreed to be interviewed.

I had gone uninvited because L S Lowry is a difficult man to get hold of. His telephone is ex-directory and he seldom answers letters. That seemed to be the trouble.

He indicated a big bowl in the middle of a massive carved table. The bowl was overflowing with opened letters. “They keep on coming in, but I don’t answer ‘em. People are always wanting me to do something. I had enough long ago. I don’t want to work. I just want to go about and see my friends". He said that if I had called the previous week he would not have been there. He had been visiting friends in (he told me where and then said: “Don’t mention that in the paper or they’ll be there trying to get me to work”). “You’re feeling sorry for me, aren’t you?” he said. I said I wasn’t feeling at all sorry for him and why were we shouting at each other. “I’m not shouting,” he said and then he laughed. “You’re a rum lad, you’re cheering me up”.

It had been clear from the start that there was no depth to L S Lowry’s bad humour. More a bantering grouchiness. Even when he said “I couldn’t sell a damned picture when I wanted to” (he waited for fame until he was over 50) there was no acid in his voice. “I painted portraits that nobody wanted and landscapes that nobody wanted. Then I moved from Manchester to Pendlebury and I saw cotton mills for the first time. I didn’t like the place at first, but I kept looking at the mills and thinking they were a part of the passing scene. Nobody, as far as I knew, had ever painted them”.

Art critics have often read more into Lowry’s landscapes that in fact was there. He said “There was no political significance in them, you know. I did them because I thought they were a good subject matter. I lived right in the middle of the industrial scene and I tried to depict it as I saw it, without any question of the poor devils who worked there and the dark satanic mills and all that damned nonsense”.

Lowry’s industrial landscapes then were not a social commentary, but he is far from being unfeeling towards other. “I did a lot of pictures of very poor people - down and outs and misfits - in the Twenties. They were very sad and a lot of them were very interesting people. I got the impression that something had gone wrong in their lives and they were not proof against it”. Of his peopled millscapes, which soar in price annually, he says “I was getting to the end of the job before they started to sell. People used to laugh at them, make fun of them. They used to say that all those little figures looked like black beetles. They don’t, do they? A lady friend of mine still marvels that I kept on doing those scenes”.

Lowry made his first sale of a picture in 1921 to a Manchester chartered accountant. He cannot remember precisely how much he got for it but he thinks it was around £5. It was called “Lodging Houses” and was bought from an exhibition in the Salford Art Gallery. The most money he has received for one of his pictures was about £500. At auction, one of his paintings fetched £16,000. So much for “black beetles”. Still on those “beetles” he said, “They were not as easy as they look, those pictures. All those little people had got to make a good design without it looking as thought they did. They had to look natural but they had all got to be placed”.

If you take time to look at Lowry’s human beings closely in those paintings that bear his most popular stamp, you find that they are not anonymous figures scurrying around. They have warmth and individuality and seem to belong together. The community spirit is there.

How did Lowry work? “I drew on the backs of envelopes and all sorts of bits of paper. In 1919 I went out to paint a footbridge. I took an easel and canvasses and God knows what else - all the paraphernalia of a painter. At the end of the day I swore I’d give the job up rather than clutter myself up like that again. That’s 53 years ago and I’ve kept my word. I like to paint inside where its warm”. L S Lowry remains a bachelor. He neither drinks or smokes but not for moral or health reasons. He simply never has. His house, beside a main road, is cluttered with family heirlooms and other artists’ pictures. I asked him what he thought of the modern painting scene. He said “I’m a Victorian, you know, and can’t give an opinion of modern artists”. But I had spotted an interesting abstract propped on the music rest of the piano beside a little Rowlandson. He fetched it over - a watercolour on linen by the German painter Hans Jannisch which he had bought a few years ago. “I’m glad you like it”, he said. “I’m very fond of it, but I don’t like all abstracts”.

On the wireless set (it was far too venerable to be called a radio) stood a piece of sculpture in chromium - two figures, an adult and a child. “A boy sent me that some years ago”, he said. “I wish I could find that letter, I would have liked to have thanked him and told him how much I liked his work”. Then Lowry told me about his feelings towards his own pictures. “I’m tired of doing them. People do get tired, you know. It’s two or three or four years since I did my last serious picture. What happened to it? God knows. A gallery bought it, I think. People say that if I painted again it would be my best work ever, but I simply don’t want to do it. I’m tired and I’m getting on. If I did anything it would be something I’d already done. Anyway, I couldn’t do one of my earlier paintings now for a king’s ransom. I don’t like work, you know. I’ve worked hard, but I never liked it. If I was in a job where you retired at 65 I’d have been gone 20 years”.

L S Lowry sounds a little sad now. Success came late for him, but he gained recognition in his lifetime and, as he says, a lot of artists died before their work began to be appreciated. He has specialised in down to earth scenes that stimulate. His work is gentle and delicate and at the same time pungent and witty. It may appear naïve, but it is the outcome of a thorough academic training at the Manchester and Salford Schools of Art. He recorded that he thought was worthwhile, skilfully, faithfully and with a generous heart.

He took me to the door of his house and laughed as he said “It’s been described as the ugliest house in Mottram”.

I carried away a memory of L S Lowry looking at one of his pictures through his steel-rimmed spectacles and saying more with amusement than irony “People like little men ….. Plenty of little men running about”.


Daily Express 1 November

The old man looks forgotten, standing into a raw wind that erodes memories of another age. But to those who have not forgotten, he is one of the greatest folk artists of our times - Laurence Stephen Lowry, 85 today.

For him, we publish the birthday portrait he asked for. The artist as an old man, captured against the crumbling decay of Manchester backstreets he once painted. Now he does not paint at all. He chooses to live simply in a house in Mottram, just outside Hyde, in Cheshire. But he refuses to be described as a hermit. “I’m not a recluse. I visit old friends all over the country. it’s just that at my age I like to be left alone, to think, to rest, to remember old times and old faces. I belong to a long-gone era. I’m not of this world now”.

He no longer feels inspired to paint. Most of the landscape he loved no longer exists - wiped out by planners and bulldozers. He admits that nothing inspires him. “I have done it all before". The world I loved has changed. People have changed, too”.


L S LOWRY: A MAN OF HIS PEOPLE

By Barrie Sturt-Penrose

A bunch of Lowry people stand near the scene of one of Lowry’s best-known paintings. They are a mixed lot - pensioners, kids, a cripple, gossips, a tramp, workmen, mill hands, a taxi driver - but unmistakably Lowry people. They stare out of curiosity at the old man who helped make them more familiar figures throughout the world. L S Lowry is tall and haggard, with a merry, knowing face ad the deep-set eyes of a dreamer. He walks about awkwardly, covered from head to toe in a deflated grey trilby and an old crumpled overcoat which hangs untidily around his ankles and crinkled black leather boots. Standing against a background of crumbling Salford tenements to have his photograph taken, he is clearly wondering what all the damn fuss is about.

Lowry is a Royal Academician and a Mancunian Master of Arts. He is a recluse, brought up amid cotton mills, Lancashire grime and smoke, and back-to-back houses. He has been painting himself, his neighbours and the industrial North-West for more than half a century and now lives alone in Mottram in Longdendale: these are the barest details about one of Britain’s oldest and best-loved painters.

In habits, in dress and in art, Lowry expresses well enough the baffling predicament in which many a modern artist has found himself. Unlike an elderly miner or a civil servant, Lowry cannot retire from his job even though he is fed up with being an artist. He is perhaps the extreme example of a painter who finds himself famous but alone, honoured and yet at variance with the society and the people who have chosen to honour him.

The fact is that we in Britain do not quite know what to do with an international figure like L S Lowry. He brings more prestige to this country than most of our politicians put together, and yet we are still not certain how to treat him. Our dithering and embarrassment is reflected in the decision to show his work at the Tate Gallery twenty years after his major successes in the art world. In France or Brazil, someone as eminent as Lowry would have been asked to decorate the interior of a major building, or at least pay off his income tax in the form of paintings. He would not have been made to feel, and follow the holy hermit life of, a recluse.

Today, an artist like Lowry seldom knows his patrons, his public, his critics, or indeed his real friends. At the beginning of his career he attends art school, later to be turned our to find his painful way to the centre of the art maze. Like the once unknown Lowry, the struggling artist will be ignored and kept at spitting distance by gallery owners and museum men. If Lowry has lived 200 years ago he would have been told what to paint. He would have been a craftsman like the printer and the sign writer, an ordinary citizen. If his work was unacceptable he would have returned to his easel until the client was happy enough to pay the bill. The twentieth century has changed all that. Art has become the rightful province of millions rather than the narrow domain of an over-stimulated plutocracy. Culture, and especially art culture, is wonderfully common these days.

What about the artists in our midst? Now that society has become mechanised and people anonymous figures in vast sprawling suburbs and skyscraper cities, artists have been obliged to disappear from the scene. No longer is a painter like Lowry called upon to paint your portrait - you do it yourself in the twinkling of a flash bulb. Artists are now asked to paint dress designs, their mental troubles, Coke bottles and rainbow coloured ovoids. The transition from public servant to public ghost has created the primitive mystique of the artist as some kind of witch doctor with unlimited magical powers. When he becomes successful (as Lowry was made successful twenty years ago) the artist finds himself in the centre of a vast stage, surrounded by gaping faces. Work which was once despised and even giggled about yesterday becomes museum pieces and shrines for the initiated to humble themselves before.

A century ago all this would have been impossible, but then so would the art of L S Lowry. To this extent the present set up in the art world encourages gifted people to exhibit their work to a wider audience than Michelangelo or Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema ever dreamed possible. But although a Lowry print or original has become an acceptable advantage to any suburban or Mayfair wall it was not always so. There were many people - who should have known better - who fought the Lowry phenomenon when it first appeared in London. Moreover, he is still not one of us. He remains somehow different, aloof and alone.

Lowry’s genius has helped refute the visual and social prejudices which were inevitably aroused when the people and places of the industrial North of England were mentioned. He has straddled the Victorian world of men who wanted to paint like Raphael, and the brave, pulsating new world of pop art and pop imagery. It is small wonder that he feels lost and ill at ease in a world of jet travel and expendable art fashions. For him and the millions who admire his achievement, his paintings are a solitary outpost from a vanishing past; for the young they are a peep into recent history.

At the turn of the century Lowry learnt the traditional secrets of antique drawing, the proportions of Apollo, and all the other High Renaissance hangovers which made up the curricula of Victorian-Edwardian art schools. He soon realised that it had little, if anything, to do with the art of the twentieth century. He was annoyed to find that he had to find his own way. Ignored for the greater part of his life Lowry suddenly found himself the central figure in a high-powered selling campaign. The goods were industrial landscapes, portraits and street scenes he had been painting between the two wars.

Lowry is exceedingly modest and in 1945 the prospect of becoming a personality seemed to him to be silly and vulgar. Twenty-one years later it is perhaps not surprising that his experiences as a major British painter have left him with a few scars, a good many grouses and the hope of achieving immortality through his art.

Lawrence Stephen Lowry was born in Manchester in 1887, at a time when most British artists were painting Sunday School Virgins and King Arthur’s Knights. Men, women and children began work each day in the mill at five o’clock in the morning and were paid precious little for their trouble. Lowry is not eager to talk about his youth, probably because it remains the happiest (and most private) time of his life. ‘I was born in Manchester,’ he explains simply. ‘My grandfather and grandmother lived in Ireland. My father was an estate agent and went to his office in Manchester every day of the week. A very sober, punctual man, my father. My mother was altogether different. She was a very able pianist, sir! And she had a wonderful eye for beautiful things. I have her collection of old china and clocks. She did not understand my painting, but she understood me and that was enough.’

Why did Lowry start painting rather than follow in his father’s footsteps as an estate agent? ‘Nobody painted in my family as far as I know,’ he mused. ‘I drew little ships on the sea when I was a boy of eight, so an aunt of mine suggested I went to the local art school. I’d nothing against the art school and I was willing to try anything rather than take a humdrum job, sir! I’ve always been a lazy man at heart, thinking of the time when I can sit back and do nothing.’ Lowry was twenty-one when he went to the Manchester School of Art. Today, joining an art course is thought no more extraordinary than walking to Brighton or going to Butlin’s. In Lowry’s day it marked you out as somebody different, a curiosity or an idle dreamer. He did not mind in the least and he spent fifteen uneventful years at Salford and Manchester Schools of Art.

In 1909 Lowry moved to the area he was later to make famous. ‘While I was still studying at the art school,’ he explained, ‘my mother and father moved from Rusholme, a suburb of Manchester, and went to live at 117 Station Road, Pendlebury, which is midway between Manchester and Bolton. Two years later, in 1911, I finished the two portraits of my mother and father which now hand in my front room. I know they’re old fashioned, but do you like them? I’m very fond of them.’

Lowry’s art education was academic but he ended up being able to draw. ‘You’ve no idea how long I spent on freehand, antique anatomy and full-length studies,’ he said. ‘At art school, sir, they wanted accuracy more than anything else. They didn’t start you doing a sketch out of your head, sort of slapdash, and then say, “Oh that’s very good.” If you were in the art school, you drew like you would in art school. And we didn’t all come out like Titian, sir!’

The move from Rusholme to another side of Manchester proved eventful for Lowry. ‘I disliked Pendlebury you know,’ he said, ‘I disliked it intensely. Then I got used to it and used to everything about it. I got mildly interested in it even; it was industrial, you see, and everybody thought that it must be ugly and horrible. Well, at the art school in Manchester I’d never seen anything but the ordinary sort of paintings that most people did when they were students. My master was a painter, a Frenchman, and naturally enough, even in those times, he was interested in French painting and the revolutionary techniques and the Impressionists. Anyway I began looking more closely at the industrial landscape around Pendlebury and thought to myself: “I can’t recollect anybody painting mills and the people who lived round and about.” I think other artists thought it all a bit grey and depressing. I don’t know anyone since who has done it, not really seriously. Nobody’s made such a damn fool of himself because there’s no money in it.’ I asked Lowry whether he was conscious of the harsh conditions under which people lived in the mill towns? ’Well, conscious of course, because I lived amongst then, you see. I can still remember the clatter of wooden clogs on the cobbled streets when I was lying in bed in the early morning.’ Did Lowry, like Michelangelo or Rembrandt, believe in art as propaganda? ‘I did the paintings of factories and industrial workers because I lived on the spot. There was nothing much else for me to paint, you see. I did the paintings because I was interested in the scene as a scene and the whole picture as a picture. There was not much idea of a social comment in my art: none I can think of.’

How does Lowry work when he begins a new painting? ‘I’ve changed my methods of working through the years,’ he explained. ‘Up to 1919 I did a lot of painting outside, but I soon got fed up with the whole paraphernalia. I said to myself: “Damn it, I’ll drop out before I’ll cart all that stuff about with me.” and so when I started the industrial scenes I began taking a box of envelopes and things like that, doing a bit of sketching on the spot, and then going back home to paint. But now and then, if I’d seen a building that really interested me I’d do a careful, painstaking drawing out in the open.’

Lowry was supported through is early years as an artist by his parents. He lived with them in Pendlebury for nearly forty years. ‘Occasionally I would sell a painting just when I was literally fed-up and all hope was gone,’ he recalled with obvious delight. ‘I’ve never been married and so I shared my joys and sorrows with my parents. Oh, you should have been the excitement in our house when I sold a picture - wonderful, my dear sir!’

Apart from exhibiting a few paintings at the Arlington Gallery in 1936, Lowry has been singularly unsuccessful in London, until an astute dealer spotted his work in Bourlet’s, the framers, one day in 1938. When told who they were by he asked if there were any others in the stockroom. The pictures the dealer found at Bourlet’s were the nucleus of Lowry’s first one-man exhibition in London.

1974

HONORARY DEGREE FOR L S LOWRY

By John Dunsford

Only a few strides away from the biggest public collections of his works in the world, LS Lowry, the Lancashire artist, was honoured by Salford University yesterday.

Dressed in scarlet and gold robes, Mr Lowry, now 87, received the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters.

Adjacent to the university is Salford Art Gallery to which Mr Lowry has given many of its 150 Lowry works. The gallery has also bought some from him at purely nominal prices, although £16,000 was paid recently to set a new record for a Lowry (the painting was “Good Friday, Daisy Nook”).

Although born in Old Trafford, Manchester Mr Lowry found in Salford much of the inspiration for his art for which he did not achieve fame until he was 51. Peel Park, Salford and The Crescent, locale of the art gallery and the university, were among his favourite views after he went to live in Pendlebury.

Prof. W J Orville-Thomas, presenting the degree, said “The measure of an artist’s greatness is the extent of the impact of his work on the society in which he lives. If one takes this as a definition, then Mr Lowry is one of the greatest British artists in the whole history of art”.

Honorary degrees were also presented to Mrs Constance Patterson, President of the TIC (Doctor of Science) and to Sir Arnold Weinstock, managing director the General Electric Company (Doctor of Science). Among those who received honorary degrees at York University yesterday were Sir Jack Lyons, the Leeds businessman and patron of the arts and Prof. J G Wilson a founding father of the university.


Daily Telegraph 31 October

WHY LOWRY POLITELY REFUSED KNIGHTHOOD

By John Dunsford

Both the offer of a knighthood from Mr Wilson and the Companion of Honour from Mr Heath were politely refused by L S Lowry who celebrates his 87th birthday tomorrow. “It’s very kind and the offers themselves were most welcome, but there was no point in accepting one. It might be different if I were 50 and had an ambitious wife” said Dr Lowry, the bachelor artist who has, if belatedly, won revered place among artists of our time.

Looking fit and well at his home in Mottram-in-Longdendale, Cheshire yesterday, he said that was “astonished” that no one else had thought, as he did, just before the first world war, of trying to capture on canvas Lancashire industrial and mill life. He said of titles and honours “I’ve just done in my lifetime what I had to do, as everyone else has to do and did it as well as I could, so I see no call for honours“.

I commented that the omission of national honours contrasted with his membership of the Royal Academy (“Ah but that was good for business” he said impishly) and his acceptance of two honorary degrees, one a doctorate, from Manchester University. Of the latter, he hinted that there seemed to be a difference in the sincerity of intent between politicians and dons. “I think the university really meant it as honour” he said thoughtfully. “Anyway Mr Heath seemed to understand when I turned it down”.

I suggested many people might see the offer and acceptance of an honour as the public’s way of thanking him for his art. “I’ve been thanked enough. People have bought my paintings and they still write letters to me”, said the man who said he felt it was time, some years ago to stop painting, and did. He did not want to repeat works. In fact he said that he has no paints or brushes in the dark old stone built detached home. (“I am very much a Victorian you know”) which fronts a busy main road. It seemed such an unlikely environment for one of the world’s best known artists whose works soar in price every year (one, “Industrial Scene 1965” which he gave recently to the Whitworth art gallery, Manchester, was valued at more than £30,000). The auction record for a painting by Lowry (the L S stands for Laurence Stephen) is £16.000 for “Good Friday, Daisy Nook”. “But you cannot just ‘do’ a painting. A tremendous amount goes into it. In fact young artists wont do the one thing I tell them” he said solemnly. And what advice was that? “To give up now” he said, perhaps thinking of the rewards which were late coming his way. He was over 50 before his fame was established. “Never mind, I’m enjoying doing nothing now - for God’s sake don’t give me any brushes for my birthday. My work has gone. One gets past it all and my eyes aren’t what they were. Just tell people I’m finished and that I’ve seen the writing on the wall. It says ‘Come on, your time’s up’ and I’m not afraid to die. It must be like going to sleep” he said almost gaily.


Daily Express 2 November

ON A DAY LIKE LOWRY

PORTRAIT OF L S LOWRY ON HIS 87TH BIRTHDAY

By John Alley

A misty, grey day that looked for all the world like a freshly painted Lowry. People outside, heads bowed in a vapour-like drizzle, trudged uncomfortably to and fro. Inside, the Old Master sat, feet up, defying the onslought of years.

L S Lowry was yesterday enjoying his 87th birthday, but a little reluctant to admit it. “Its another day, just another day" he insisted and added “I’m tired, very tired”. Lowry, the Lancashire artist who put poverty to painting clearly did not want any fuss, birthday or no birthday. But there was an unmistakeable twinkle in the eyes as they moved ponderously over the uneven mound of cards and letters strewn across the Jacobean table. There was an extra chuckle in the greetings bundle - a letter from the Inland Revenue. Lowry seized upon it “Good gracious” he said. Then, after close study the smile returned “Its someone else’s, wrongly addressed. A close thing”, he said.

Laurence Stephen Lowry born in 1887 was the only child of a middle-class family. He lived with them until they died. In 1948 he moved to The Elms at Mottram, Cheshire. Lowry reflected on his decision not to marry. “I’m glad - I never wanted to” he said. “Especially when I see what’s happening in the world. The crash will come, there’s no doubt about that. It is something the whole world will suffer”.

Someone rang the door bell and Lowry eased himself from the chair. The callers were two children with their dog. They chorused “Happy Birthday” as he opened the door. Lowry was delighted and spoke to them about painting then returned to the living room. He looked our of the window, quizzing the weather “I’m going for a stroll” he said. Then the Old Master stepped out into a special grey day.


Daily Mail 2 November

LIFE IN LOWRY STYLE

By Michael Cuerden

Birthday breakfast at The Elms yesterday was a loaf of bread, some butter and a pot of tea with L S Lowry, painter and gentleman, brightening suddenly at the thought of an 88th year. “I should be dead”, he says, chuckling. “All my contemporaries have gone. But I am still alive an I still enjoy doing the things everybody does, like listening to music and talking to folk”.

Sadly for us he paints no more. Sadly for him his appetite has gone.

Artist Pat Cooke, one of his firm friends, recalls his love of food and the guffaw when, Lancashire pie before him, he cried “All the art in the world isn’t worth a good potato pie, sir”.

Mr Lowry - everyone calls him that - lives alone, in Mottram on the fringes of the Derbyshire Peak District, with his parents’ collection of clocks around him. He never found the need to marry. “I’ve never had a girl, and never been in love. I don’t feel sad about it”, he says.

He produced a phenomenal number of oils and drawings, works he sold for £30 or £50 that now fetch up to £16,000. He cannot remember just how many. “I really don’t like many of them now anyway, It’s rather strange the way people pay so much. When I moved to Pendlebury with my parents and saw an industrial area for the first time, everybody thought I was daft to paint it. “They’d laugh and say ‘How is the art world then - booming, eh?’

There are still people who cannot quite believe in the old man. Like the caller who had invested in what he believed to be a Lowry and wanted the artist to sign it. “Its is not” Mr Lowry told him, “one of mine”. “I bought it from a reputable dealer” spluttered the investor. “I shall have to seek a second opinion”.

It is from people like that that Mr Lowry retires into The Elms. He says “If I had my time again I suppose I would be a painter. But I don’t think much of it as a living. As a hobby on a Sunday afternoon it is very nice, but as a job is very, very hard work”.

1975

Daily Mail 16 July

BATTLE OF THE RUBBISH DOWN LOWRY’S LANE

By Dennis Ellam

The Planners had new ideas for the peaceful glade where poets gathered and LS Lowry used to paint. They wanted to fill it in with two million tons of rubbish. But their plan has been halted at Grace Cleworth’s doorstep, where Lowry spent days sketching. Her 262 year old Queen Anne cottage has been hastily covered by a protective order as the last link with more dignified times in Potters Lane.

The cottage stands at the end of a narrow cobbled track in Moston, three miles from the centre of Manchester. It was first taken over as a secret base for religious scholars. By the early 1800s poet Ben Brierley lived there and held weekly meetings of writers and artists in his parlour.

Lowry discovered the secluded retreat in 1950 when his paintings of Northern landscapes were starting to excite the art world. He would sit among the orchards and raspberry canes opposite Mrs Cleworth’s cottage while she brought him pint pots of tea and homemade cakes. Lowry’s favourite spot was 50 yards from the house, beneath an old lime tree.

That particular corner of Lowry country is now a small mountain of rubbish from the dustbins of Manchester. When Lowry heard five years ago what the planners had in mind for Potters Lane he joined the battle with the best weapon he could think of. He gave 53 year old Mrs Cleworth one of his paintings of the cottage. “He told me to sell it if ever I needed Money to fight the planners - or, if the worst happened, to help to buy a new house”, she said. “But that painting, and an earlier one he gave to us, have stayed right there on the wall because they’re simply too precious ever to part with. Mr Lowry used to bring artist friends with him - once in a Rolls Royce - and they could sit and sketch outside from early morning until dusk. He was horrified when I told him how they were ruining this place he loved. He told me to fight till the end - although he felt the authorities would win”.

A third painting of the cottage is among a collection of Lowry’s owned by the Queen Mother.

Now Mrs Cleworth and her husband, Harry, 55, have entered the final round of the eight year struggle to save the cottage. During that struggle the environment Ministry reversed the decision of a public inquiry in 1970 and decided it must be demolished and this May the Cleworths were told by Manchester Corporation to move out.

But with the help of the North West civic Trust and Shelter, the campaign for the homeless, they have won a stay of sentence. The monster rubbish dump has been denied a total takeover for a least six months. Environment officials have issued a temporary protection order while they decide whether the cottage should be preserved for its historical value. “It could swing one way or the other” a department spokesman said.

Mrs Cleworth said “Mr Lowry asked us to tell him which way things are finally decided. If the cottage has to come down he wants to travel back for one final visit before it disappears for ever“.


The Times 22 July

INDUSTRIAL STIMULUS

By William Gaunt

How L S Lowry came to occupy his unique position as painter of the industrial scene is a main theme of the exhibition of his works on view at the Crane Kalman Gallery, a coherent survey of his development from the 1920s onwards. One aim of the exhibition, as stated by the gallery, is to add stimulus to a movement for establishing a permanent Lowry Collection in Manchester, the city of his birth. Some of the earliest paintings now shown provide an essential nucleus for the account of his formative years.

The artist’s own remark is quoted on the shock of moving at the age of 22, together with his family from the residential side of Manchester to Pendlebury, suburb of Salford and “as industrial as it could be”. It took him six years, he says, to get over the dislike that the spectacle of smoking factory chimneys, bleak wastelands and existence in these surroundings tends to create in minds conditioned to idyllic thoughts of unspoilt English landscape. But by degrees he grew attached to the industrial panorama, and attachment eventually became an obsession with putting it on canvas.

The evolution is perceptible in examples at the Crane Kalman Gallery. By 1922 the direction is his interest was already evident in ‘A Manufacturing Town’, a crowded composition, dark in tone but enlivened by its many figures. Working at Salford where his “favourite places were houses built round factories” he began to develop architectural background and strongly silhouetted figures, as in the ‘Salford Street Scene’ of 1928. ‘Returning from Work’ in the following year extracted novel elements of design from the factory setting. He also began to temper dark silhouettes with notes of bright colour. ‘The Tree’ of 1931 with its lonely bit of nature marooned in the pavement is an instance.

Local character in the human sense was also the object of his sympathetic study in the 1930s as in his picture of a working-class family at home and the portrayal of types such as his ‘A Manchester Man’ of 1936. These are sign posts to the many years of lonely effort during which his style and outlook matured before his first one-man exhibition in 1939 gave him wide recognition and let to the fresh expansions of effort that the Crane Kalman Gallery also illustrates.


Observer Review 9 November

PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST, MR LOWRY

By John Heilpern

L S Lowry stared at the ageing image of himself in the mirror of the Gents. It was a situation he seemed to enjoy in his eccentric way. “This won’t do, sir!” he said eventually. “This won’t do at all”.

“What won’t do?”

“I won’t do” replied Mr Lowry and laughed to himself. He combed his shock of white hair with a long black comb which had been tucked into his waistcoat pocket. “Oh dear”, he said “look at my hair. Why do you think my hair’s standing up?” I told him the theory that people with flat hair are depressed and people with hair standing on end are cheerful. “That theory’s all very well”, he replied. “But I am depressed”.

“What by, sir?”

“Life, sir! I’m old and past it. Good heavens!” he added suddenly. “What do you make of that? What is it?” He was staring at a piece of pop art: a mechanical shoe polisher.

“It’s a mechanical shoe polisher”.

“Is it? You going to have your shoes polished?”

“No. Are you?”

“No. Can’t afford it. I’m too poor. I’m old and poor and clapped out”.

I followed him out of the Gents into a formal dining room where Andras Kalman, a London art dealer who’s known him for 20 years, had arranged lunch for us. We were in an hotel outside Manchester. “There’s a very quiet meeting going on in there”, he said, glancing at the empty lounge.

He looked a comic figure, pear-shaped, padding along the corridor in a sombre baggy suit and black tie as if dressed for a funeral. At a pinch he might have been a rather dignified tramp. He was like a figure out of his own paintings: someone alone even in a crowd, Chaplinesque perhaps, freakish, miserable, ghostly. “I have been called a painter of the Manchester work people”, he said more than 25 years ago. “But my figures are not exactly that. The are ghostly figures which tenant these courts and laneways which seem t be so beautiful. They are symbols of my mood, they are myself”.

“Are you looking after yourself, Mr Lowry?” asked Andras Kalman when we joined his table.

“If I don’t” he replied “no one else will. I shouldn’t worry. It’ll be a relief if something happens to me. People will be able to say the old bugger’s gone at last”. And he laughed again.

Its strange: even people who’ve known him for many years always call him “Mr Lowry”. “Interesting isn’t it” he said when I asked him about it. “I don’t know why. I wonder why …….. The name’s Laurence. Laurence Lowry, I believe”.

He usually enjoys egg and chips best, thought asked for chop and chips this time and orange squash. He’s never drunk alcohol, never smoked a cigarette. In his loneliness he feared that drink would have turned him into an alcoholic. There have been a multitude of ‘nevers’ in the life of this unique man. He has never married, never had a girlfriend, never driven a car or flown in a plane, never been abroad and wouldn’t allow a telephone into his house until he was almost 80. “I’m a very simple man”, he announced suddenly in his gentle, ironic way. “In the cold, cold world”.

At the table next to ours a party of noisy businessmen called for double brandies and cigars. But in the midst of their talk and laughter, one of them looked over to our table. I watched him whisper to his friends that L S Lowry was sitting close by and the noise subsided respectfully.

The art dealer showed Mr Lowry several photos of his paintings during lunch, planning to show the originals in a forthcoming exhibition. ‘Oh yes!’ said Lowry, lighting up. ‘I remember that. Painted it in 1938. Do you like the one of the deserted mill? Did it in 1945.’ each time he remembered the exact time, though the total number of his works is estimated at 3,000. ‘How did I do it all?’ he wondered. Then he drifted into silence, punctuating it with sighs and random thoughts like one of Samuel Beckett’s tragic-comic characters. ‘The agony of it all! ….Decisions …No rest … God help us, it’s a rum business this art … I need flattery, sir! … I’m a good chap … Everyone takes me in … I must go to Sunderland!’

He often has. Lowry’s idea of heaven is to sit by the seafront at Sunderland. He stays in a small hotel. ‘I have friends there. They have tender hearts …’ I asked him why he didn’t go now, if he wanted to, He’s been known to go to Sunderland on impulse, travelling the 135 miles by taxi. ‘Things, things to do. As soon as there’s time …’ And silence. In such moments his face loses all expression and colour, drained of life like a death mask.

L S Lowry is 88 years old now. He was born in Rusholme in 1887. Although its often imagined he must be working class, he’s the only son of an estate agent and had a small private income as a young man. It enabled him to drift leisurely through art schools in Manchester and Salford for almost 15 years. It passed the time nicely. It also gave him a training in craftsmanship and technique which could not be farther removed from the claim that he’s a primitive painter. When he was 33 his art teacher tactfully hinted that perhaps it was time he left school. Never took an exam.

The turning point in his life came when he was 22 and his family moved to the grime of Salford. There he found himself surrounded by the misty cotton mills and decaying streets that were to obsess and transform him. To this day he doesn’t understand what attracted him to poverty and ugliness. For six years he disliked the area intensely. It was as if he suddenly awoke to a vision of life. ‘I saw it.’ he told me, lighting up again. ‘I saw its beauty! I was with a man and he said, “Look!” and then I realised there was this wonderful subject I’d never seen before. I felt compelled to paint it. I painted what I saw. That’s all it is, really …’

Those paintings of mills and fair grounds, of busy street scenes and distorted figures in hand-me-down clothes have carved a niche in history for Lowry. Perhaps his lesser known work reveals the hidden depths and complexities of his personality mire easily: the paintings of cripples, tramps, eccentrics, a bearded lady he met on a train, a man crying, and his most recent work - empty roads, desolate moors, lakes, timeless and endless seas. Sophisticated critics claim that his Northern landscapes are ‘regional’ and ‘narrow’. If so, the London street scenes of Lucian Freud must be too. But if Lowry’s work has remained largely rooted in his immediate environment, he’s achieved something the more remarkable for it. Completely uninfluenced by any other contemporary artist, his paintings have given thousands and thousands of people new eyes.

Incredible to recall that he remained virtually unknown until he was 52. He must have been a man of phenomenal resilience and purpose. One doubts that its so now. Yet he’s always described his nature an inherently bone idle. ‘Nothing to beat it sir! Doing nothing. I’m very fond of it. All people who work hard are idle at heart you know …’

Perhaps, but loneliness has been the true essence and driving force of Lowry’s life. He strikes you as an unexpectedly formal man, awkward and shy, very courteous, independent, tender. There a sardonic side to him, love of irony. That, and a habitual self-mockery. But the supreme irony of his life is that he’s a man who’s been scarred and liberated by near total isolation. His companion has been his imagination. For without his loneliness, he says, he would never have painted. He’s been a virtual recluse for some 35 years now, though he quite enjoys company. Its just that he’s preferred to jog along in his own miserable way. For the first 50 years of his life he lived only with his parents. His father died in 1932, a man who took little or no interest in his son’s work. His mother died in 1939, a few months after his big breakthrough: his first exhibition in London, an accomplished pianist who collected china and old clocks, she was an invalid in the last years of her life. Lowry cared for her devotedly. He says it sounds ridiculous and sentimental, but he never felt much interest in life since his mother died. Ten years later, to the astonishment of many people including himself, he uprooted himself completely. He left his Salford home to the demolitions gangs and moved 12 miles away to a bleak stone house in Mottram-in-Longdendale over the Lancashire border. He’s never painted in the area, preferring to travel back into Manchester each day to sketch scenes which he might paint late into the night. His friends say he excelled himself: the place is utterly and completely inconvenient for him. He moved in for 12 months and it still there.

Two tiny cluttered rooms are on the ground floor. On the wall of this sitting room portraits of his mother and father which he painted when he was 23. He told me the room is virtually a replica of the sitting room in Salford. Lowry detests change. Its as if he still wants to live in the twenties and thirties when life held meaning for him. The back room of the house is his studio a dumping ground now, musty and damp, unused with cob web s on the ceiling, ‘Its nice isn’t it?’ he said with a smile. ‘watch the carpets.’ The floors are mostly bare. Upstairs the rooms are as cold as a monk’s cell. The garden has never been entered, for the grass and weeds grown waist-high, spreading towards the house. He locked the door when he showed me inside, producing a large key, like a jailor. He was burgled once. ‘I deplored their taste in painting,’ he said, laughing. ‘I’d have done better myself.’

Thought he’s totally indifferent to the outward circumstances of life, its possible Lowry isn’t quite so poor as makes out. He’s been a soft touch, giving away a great deal of his work. But his paintings and reproductions have sold well over the years and he’s lived frugally. The average price for his best work would be over £10,000 now. A painting he sold for next to nothing years ago was resold in 1962 for £22,000. When he heard of the record price Lowry replied with the famous remark that Degas made in similar circumstances. ‘It’s like the winning racehorse feels when it sees the jockey presented with the gold cup.’ We sat in his dark sitting room and talked for a little longer. A deep gloom seemed to overcome him in there. He sat in is armchair staring blankly at the wall.

Does he paint any more? ‘Can’t!’ he snapped back. ‘It’s gone!’ They say you’re as old as you feel. You’re as old as you are. I can’t do it any longer! No, no! I can’t. I’m 88. My eyes, for one thing … I’ve done my best. I wanted to put the industrial scene on the map sir! That’s my story and I’m sticking to it … I want to rest … I don ‘t want to paint. Nothing to paint … its gone. Everything’s changed, everything’s gone …’

No longer active enough even to walk through the streets and areas of England he loves, unable to escape, paint, without close friends or family, alone, no one, nothing left. What has this man to live for?

A wonderful project to set up a Lowry museum in Manchester has caught his interest. But the battle for financial backing has only just begun and he can do little more at this stage than wish the project well. And perhaps he hopes for something which seems astonishing. Friends of his say that he privately hopes to be given the Freedom of Manchester. The artist who turned down a knighthood and the Order of Merit would like to be recognised by the city of his birth. That’s all!

‘What are you hoping for?’ I asked him quickly. ‘What would you imagine?’ he replied and from his desolate look I knew the answer at that moment was far from civic honours. I didn’t want to answer him. ‘I want the truth from you!’ he snapped back now. ‘Point blank. Come on! Come on!’ ‘You’re hoping for death.’ ‘Correct!’ he replied as if I’d won a prize in a quiz show. ‘Death, comfortably. What is there left? I feel as if I don’t belong to this life … Feel as if I’m not here … I’m not complaining. Ups and downs in anyone’s life. I’ve got through it quite pleasantly really. Drifting about. Mustn’t complain … Strange thing, life. Why are we doing it? What’s the point of the whole thing? Why? What of it? I can’t get used to it. Why, Why? Can you answer me? What’s the purpose of it all? Everywhere you turn is suffering. Why? God only knows! I don’t … Why all the fuss and flurry? Can’t you tell me?’ I had gone cold, mouthing banalities: ‘To make a better life.’ ‘For what?’ he replied. ‘It gets worse. Worse! Do you think the world is really a better place than it used to be? What can it all have been for? It can’t all have been waste. There must be something after … I don’t understand a thing. What’s the idea? Tell me what the point of all this is and I’ll be happy.’ ‘I can’t help you. I know you’ve created fine art.’ ‘What’s the good of art? What’s the good of it!’ ‘You’ve given people enormous pleasure.’ ‘Fleeting. Its only been fleeting.’ ‘It’s gone deeper.’ ‘Perhaps. It might have done. I don’t know. I wish I knew.’ He drifted into silence. ‘Why are you stopping?’ he asked suddenly and looked rather cheerful. ‘It was very interesting all that! Most interesting.’ ‘Too upsetting sir.’ ‘Aaaaaah’ said Mr Lowry and in a moment of sublime irony stroked my arm. And yawned. And waved goodbye from the front door. And returned to his empty sitting room, locking the door behind him.


Guardian 11 November

LOWRY ON HIS HOME GROUND

Most British artists have to wait until they die before being honoured. L S Lowry has been luckier than most. Manchester has been particularly proud of its native son, granting him two honorary degrees, the freedom of the City of Salford and a special birthday concert by the Hallé Orchestra. But his works remain scattered round the world. What better tribute could there be to Britain’s best known painter of industrial landscapes than a special Lowry museum which the painter himself could help plan? This idea of Sir John Betjeman’s, floated in a letter on this page yesterday, should be grabbed by the city.

Can the city afford it? A new museum next to the Whitworth Art Gallery, which some of Lowry’s friends have been pushing, should be ruled out. There is just not enough money. Would it be appropriate in any case? Betjeman rightly noted that Lowry has been much more than just an artist of industrial landscapes, but it is his mill scenes and “stick” people that most people will want to see. It a brand new museum the best place to view industrial landscapes?

If maltings can be turned into concert halls, why can’t factories or warehouses be turned into art galleries? Medieval warehouses owned by the National Trust in King’s Lynn, in fact, have already been turned into a gallery. There is an eighteenth century factory at Styal, just 10 miles south of Manchester, which is also owned by the National Trust. The Trust hopes to turn the factory into a museum of the textile industry, which may not leave much room, but the plans are by no means complete. There are all too many other empty factories in the Manchester area. Rusholme, his first home, and Pendlebury, where he moved later, would seem the right kind of places to start looking.


22 November

LOWRY FAVOURS CITY EXHIBITION SITE

By MICHAEL MORRIS

Since Sir John Betjeman suggested a permanent Lowry exhibition, earlier this month, people have been speculating about a suitable place. Until yesterday no one had asked the painter himself.

L S Lowry, now 88, speaking at his stone-built house at Mottram-in-Longdendale, near Glossop, was invited to consider the ideas: an eighteenth century mill 10 miles out of Manchester at Styal, a terrace house in Salford, new extensions to public galleries in Manchester or Salford, a canal warehouse or his own house.

It had nothing to do with him, he said modestly, but, since he had been asked his opinion, he had no hesitation in saying Manchester - exactly what Sir John Betjeman said in starting the debate in the Guardian letter columns. “I am a Manchester man, so if they want to do it, it’s obviously the place”, he said.

Settling before an open fire he wondered why anyone should want to bother. “If they want to get on with it, then let them and don’t bother me”. If people insisted on an exhibition, however, he had an idea of his own about a venue in Manchester - perhaps at Whitworth Park, Manchester University, where he was awarded an honorary degree. Then there was his Salford. There were more of his paintings in Salford Art Gallery (more than 140 collected since 1939) than at Manchester. He was dubious about a museum at the National Trust owned mill at Styal for the same reason that he discounted the use of his own house. It was too far out. “Nobody would go there. I known I wouldn’t”. Nor did he respond to the idea of a canal warehouse, which the British Waterways Board would probably make available. “A gallery is best in the middle of town”.

Finally he wanted to know where the money was coming from. They had better do it fairly soon or it would be too late for him. He would not be alive. But, if it was “OK by them”, it was all right by him, he said, brightening up.


Telegraph 11 December

£50k LOWRY ART HAUL

Three oil paintings by L S Lowry together valued by police at £50,000 have been stolen from the Crane Kalman Gallery, Chelsea by thieves who beat alarms to get in through a basement door.

One of the pictures, an industrial scene 14” by 18½” called ‘The Monolith’ had been sold to a private collector for £11,000 and was awaiting collection.

The paintings were part of an exhibition of 36 works by Lowry on display in the ground floor and basement galleries. The thieves risked being seen by passers-by to steal two pictures from the upper gallery. They are ‘The Contraption’ (17” by 17”) which depicts a man on a motorised tricycle and is owned by Mr and Mrs Andras Kalmnan, the gallery owners, and ‘Street Scene, Berwick-on-Tweed’ (21” by 17”) owned by the gallery. It as thought that because two of the paintings are internationally known and have been reproduced that the thieves knew what they were looking for.

The Lowry exhibition was to have closed last weekend, but it had been so popular, a gallery representative said - there had been “thousands of requests” to extend it - that it was decided to keep the exhibition open for another week.


Guardian 1 December

L S LOWRY

By Keith Dewhurst

L S Lowry: A selection of Paintings at the Crane Kalman Gallery, London, is marvellous exhibition. It contains less than 40 pictures but they are so well chosen that they display the full range of the artist’s career and the relationships between the various themes in his work.

In Lowry these themes are expressed initially in terms of different kinds of subject matter. These include the classic industrial scenes, the groups of eccentric urban people, the unexpectedly solid architectural paintings (like the splendid House on the Corner, Manchester), the full-face head and shoulders portraits, the seaport scenes, the moorland scenes and the empty seascapes.

It is an astonishing variety of interests for a supposedly primitive painter - now that today many people would call Lowry a primitive just because his figures seem to be painted simply. Lowry is recognised to be an extraordinary artist even though critics are not always sure where to place him. He is outside the grand tradition of modern painting. He is a figurist and, what seems to be worse, the effect of his paintings has generally been assumed to depend on the narrative and social facts which they present. The mill towns are ugly and the people who live in them are deformed and drab. At the same time the people are comic and quaint. They are human in defiance of their surroundings.

It is this aspect of Lowry which makes him one of the painters whom ordinary people know and whose work sells widely in reproduction. To find the popular touch in so lonely and dedicated a man is very moving but it is not the whole of him and it does not explain the sweep of his work. In particular it does not explain the paintings which are totally unlike the industrial scenes; the paintings of the sea and the moors. These paintings are so stark that at first sight it is difficult to relate them to the rest of Lowry’s work but really I think they are the key to the whole. In the first place they show clearly that Lowry has profound painterly qualities: that is, he can make a disturbing emotional effect solely in terms of the arrangement of shapes and colours on the canvas. When these shapes represent factories or houses they convey a mysterious emotional charge in excess of the representational information bourne out ugliness and smoke.

This I think is why Lowry was able to refine his industrial style. The early pictures are the most realistic. As the decades go by the clothes of the figures and so forth become subtly stylised and out of time. The skies and foregrounds become whiter and more abstract - almost as abstract as the skies in the moor and sea pictures. This means that in later industrial pictures the facts of one moment in history are deployed against a background that will not change, just as Lowry’s vision of the moors has not changed.

One of the most interesting pictures in the Crane Kalman exhibition is an almost abstract moorland landscape, Witherns, painted in 1928. Next to it is a Heathcliff’s House done more than 20 years later and these pictures seem to me to be crucial. Lowry is by no means an original genius like Emily Bronte, but after her he is I believe the true poet of what the North of England did to itself in the industrial revolution; and like his beloved pre-Raphaelites his best work combines narrative ideas with technical obsession and instinct.

In his relationship to the North of England Lowry is neither an outrageous outsider like Dickens or Orwell nor a first-hand sufferer of deprivation like Lawrence or Greenwood. He is a middle class person who knows that his world is emotional, and whose intelligence ranges on a time scale that is beyond the political. He knows that the actual soul of the North of England is something to do with the moors and the empty country. That is what it was like before the industrial revolution and that is how it dreams to be again. The mills were a blight, an extraordinary moment of power and energy, but they did not make anyone happier or alter the dip and fall of the land or the grey-white of the sky or the mystery of the sea at the horizon.

Look at the marvellous 1946 painting of the Good Friday Fair at Daisy Nook. Look beyond the swarms of people and their valiantly gay little pleasures. Look to the horizon and the hawthorns on the dull green shoulder of the hill and the trees that have not in that northern spring quite shaken out their leaves. Look at the ragged dirty white sky and the strange emptiness of it that is broken by the mill chimney.

Look at the haunting Ship Approaching Harbour of 1960. An ambiguous picture because somehow the ship could be sailing away and perhaps that is how we wish it. That the ship of destiny would sail away for every and leave us with our landscape and our private lives. In that painting there is regret, but in the paintings of the sea itself there is only peace. They are head-on views of waves rippling gently and greyly from the horizon. They own something to Turner, I suppose, yet they are unlike him in that they do not celebrate, even by describing its repose, the energy of the sea.

Lowry is from the North and the North is disillusioned by energy ad at the same time embittered and bewildered by its loss. Lowry’s seas, like his moors, offer the comfort of a solitude in which human feelings are irrelevant - so if feelings survive there they are strong indeed. This I imagine is why Lowry himself went to live on the moors’ edge at Mottram - and because somewhere out there, somewhere in the hail showers and the soggy peat gullies, somewhere in our memory and hopes, Heathcliff is sardonically and unrepentantly alive.

1976

Rochdale Observer 31 January

ARTIST SCOURS COUNTRY AND ADDS LOWRY TO HIS LOT

Art lovers who want to add to their collections and those who have an unrequited yearning to hang a quality painting in their home should make a diary date for Rochdale Town Hall on 27 February.

Drawings by L S Lowry and works by other members of the Royal Academy will be on view at an art auction and sale organised by Rochdale East Rotary Club.

Lowry’s brown and black felt tip drawing, The Promenade, and one or two other selected works will be auctioned. Most of the 80 items will be on sale at half or two-thirds the normal price. The Rotary Club is hoping to raise about £1,500 for the newly formed Rochdale branch of the National Deaf Children’s Society.

Mr Leo Solomons, club president and principal of the Rochdale College of Art, has used his influence with his friends in the art world to collect the paintings, engravings and lithographs which he estimates are worth several thousands of pounds. They include works by Professor Carel Weights and Norman Adams, both of the Royal academy, John Nicholson of the Royal Institute, Norman Janes, the printmaker and Barbara Gregg, the wood engraver. Alongside their works will be the paintings of here of Rochdale’s most promising young artists - Mark Wydler, Susan Gaffney and Ann A Williams.

Whoever buys the Lowry drawing in the auction will be asked to part with it, albeit temporarily. It is regarded of such importance that Professor Weights would like to display it in the Lowry Exhibition at the Royal Academy in August.


Burnley Evening Star 31 January

Specialist art thieves were blamed today for a break-in at a design consultant’s firm in Burnley.

Lowry originals were among the paintings stolen in a night raid on Harrison Galleries Limited, Manchester Road. Police suggest the value of glassware and paintings stolen to be “several hundreds of pounds” but the firm’s owner fears the final cost will far exceed that estimate. “These people knew what they were doing and took the very precious merchandise”, said Mr G Harrison, managing director of the firm. “They were in the building some time and appear to have operated very skilfully. Many of the items will be hard to dispose of unless they have an outlet already.”

Four original Lowry paintings were taken and also all the firm’s stock of limited editions by the same artist. Their whole stock of lead cut crystal glass was also taken.


Burnley Evening Star 5 February

Burnley had its own “sale of the century” when thousands of pounds worth of antiques and fine art works were auctioned at knock-down prices at the Keirby Hotel, last night.

A Marcel Larou landscape with a written valuation of £400 went for just £72 and a silver plated candelabra retailing at £75 was sold for £25. These were just two examples from the high speed auction where more than 300 paintings, items of jewellery, porcelain and silverware came under the hammer at a fraction of their value. Another oil painting valued at £450 was sole for £65 and auctioneer Mr Michael Lev immediately offered the buyer a further £40 to sell it back to him. Mr Lev of Woodford Green, Essex tours the country auctioning goods for people who want money in a hurry.

Scores of finely framed oil works went for the price of prints and the result was that more than 150 people left the auction well satisfied with their bargains. Large Lowry prints were in big demand but even these sold for as little as £10.


Daily Telegraph 5 February

R A TO STAGE MAJOR LOWRY EXHIBITION

By John Williams

A major exhibition of the works of L S Lowry is being planned by the Royal Academy in September in recognition of the artist’s achievement in more than 70 years of painting.

Between 200 and 300 of the Lancashire artist’s oils, watercolours and pastels from private and public collections are being gathered for the exhibition. Other famous painters to be honoured with major exhibitions of their works at the Royal academy have included Russell Flint and Munnings.

This, however, will be the first time that Lowry, a member of the Academy since 1962, has had a full-scale exhibition of his work there. In 1965 he was honoured by the Tate when they staged a retrospective exhibition. Prof. Carel Weight, another distinguished academician and an old friend of the artist, is selecting the pictures for the exhibition. The exhibition in the main gallery has been provisionally titled Homage to L S Lowry and will include examples of work from his earliest days.

“We have never had a large exhibition of his work before and we felt it was time we made up for that2, a Royal Academy spokesman said yesterday.

L S Lowry, who lives in Motttram-in-Longdendale, near Glossop said “Naturally I am very pleased that the Academy should want to show my works like this. Certainly I shall visit the exhibition if I can but the fact is that I am 88 and I have seen all the pictures before2.


LOWRY WORKS WORTH £30,000 STOLEN

by Peter Hetherington

Paintings and sketches by L S Lowry, the Lancashire artist who died in February, were stolen in a weekend raid at an art gallery in Southport, it was disclosed yesterday.

Raiders climbed to the roof of the Atkinson Art Gallery, broke a skylight, cut the pictures from their frames and escaped through a fire door. The value of their haul is estimated at £30,000.

Miss Margo Ingam-Drake, a friend of Lowry, who had lent the paintings to the gallery said last night she believed they had been stolen for a private collection. “They are so well known that I can’t imagine anyone being able to sell them or display them” she said at her home in Southport. “They may to into a collection of a so-called art lover who will simply sit and gloat over them”.

The Lowry’s - three paintings and five sketches - were among a haul of 25 pictures and some Russian silver coins. Many of them have been widely printed. They included the famous Lancashire Street Scene, Going for a Walk and a third of a Manchester gallery run by Miss Ingam-Drake, called “Midday Studios, Manchester”. Another Lowry, the gallery’s Industrial Scene showing a mill at Pendlebury, near Salford was also stolen.

Miss Ingam-Drake said she offered her pictures to the gallery from April to September on the understanding that they would be insured. “I wanted as many people as possible to appreciate then, rather than have them locked up in a vault. I had them for some security in old age”.

Detective Superintendent Tom Davies, head of the Merseyside serious crimes squad said “The raid was obviously a professional job. The thieves left some paintings which would have been more valuable and were obviously looking for the Lowrys”.


Daily Mail 19 February

THE INTRIGUING QUESTION-MARK OVER LOWRY’S £1M COLLECTION

With Britain’s foremost naif artist L S Lowry lying seriously ill in hospital, a question mark hovers over the future of his personal art collection, conservatively valued in excess of £1 million.

A life-long bachelor and recluse, Lowry has lived in a bleak stone house in Mottram-in-Longdendale, Lancashire for 35 years sparingly selling his work which fetches up to £25,000 a canvas.

When I last spoke to Lowry - best known for his industrial scenes and scurrying ‘stick’ people - about the works he has kept in his possession, he told me ‘I have someone in mind to leave them to but I am not sure if the person would do right by them. I want them to remain as a collection - and not be sold.’ A possible alternative is a permanent gallery in the middle of Lowry-land and he discussed this with London art collection Andras Kalman only last month. ‘We met for lunch and he said that his dream was that there should be a Lowry gallery somewhere in Manchester.’ Mr Kalman told me. ‘He was in great spirits, chuckling all the time and as usual, making fun of himself.’

Lowry - the initials stand for Laurence Stephen - has not painted seriously for three years. Just before his illness the Royal Academy offered him a large exhibition in the autumn, ten years after his retrospective at the Tate. A key figure in the future of Lowry’s own works is Alick Leggat, 67, the treasurer of Lancashire Country Cricket Club and a friend of 25 years standing. ‘I don’t own a Lowry myself, and I don’t know what the plans are,’ he said yesterday. ‘I’ve just been to see him - he’s not at all well. He’s had a stroke and there is also bronchitis.’


L S LOWRY, 88, SERIOUSLY ILL AFTER STROKE

L S Lowry, 88, the artist, was “in a precarious state” in hospital yesterday, suffering from a stroke and bronchial pneumonia.

Mr Lowry, a bachelor, was found by a friend collapsed on the floor of the stone Victorian villa in which he lives alone near the Pennines at Mottram-in-Longendale, Cheshire. Dr Richard Clark, the general practitioner called to the house, said Mr Lowry was too ill on Monday night to recognise people. But after seeing him last night at the 36-bed Woods Hospital, Glossop, Dr Clark said “His condition has improved on last night. He talked to me and was quite rational.”


LOWRY’S LAST WISH

Secret arrangements were made yesterday for burying L S Lowry. It was the Lancashire artist’s last wish that he should have a private funeral with few mourners and no flowers.

The executors of his estate - the National Westminster Bank and Manchester solicitor Mr Alfred Hulme - fear that if details were given out, big crowds will turn up.

It is believed, however, that Lowry, who died on Monday, aged 88. Will be buried at Southern Cemetery, Manchester. A bank spokesmen added “Later in the year a memorial service will be held for him. Admirers of his work can go to that.”


Daily Express 24 February

LOWRY LEAVES A MYSTERY

By Harry Pugh

L S Lowry, the artist whose brush created the “stick people”, died yesterday leaving a hoard of paintings and sketches - and a great mystery.

No one could say for certain what will happen to the countless works, some his own, others by painters he admired, which fill the old stone house where he lived in Mottram-in-Longdendale, Cheshire. It is believed they could be worth £1 million.

Officials at the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester - the city where Lowry was born - say he recently promised the collection to them. But the 88 year old semi-recluse, who died in hospital at Glossop, Derbyshire, following a stroke and bronchial pneumonia, would never talk about his decision and last night, as police watched the house, his trustees, the National Westminster Bank, remained just as silent.

His only known relatives -discovered two years ago- are Mrs Martha Lowry, a very “distant cousin” and her 32-year old daughter, Carol.

At her one-bed roomed flat in College Bank, Rochdale, Mrs Lowry said “I don’t know what will happen to his collection. To me he was just a lonely old man who came to tea. But he was delighted to find he had living relatives.”

The artist gave her several of his works which now hand on the walls of her flat. Some of Lowry’s works - with the distinctive touch of “matchstick” crowds in the setting his beloved Lancashire - have been valued as highly as £30,000. His art brought him fame and some fortune. But all he would say about it was a mumbled ‘I’ve made a lot for the income tax man.’

Among tributes to the artist last night was one from his friend Lord Feather. ‘He was one of the outstanding painters of this century.’


Daily Express 24 February

LOWRY - LONELY MAN WHO CROWDED A GENERATION INTO THE STREETS OF INDUSTRIAL LANCASHIRE

By Geoffrey Mather

The population of the earth is three-and-a-half thousand million. The chances of any one person making such an impact that his work becomes a fingerprint recognisable throughout the world is, therefore, vanishingly small. We are honouring today such a man, whose work is instantly recognisable whether viewed in London or Tokyo - Eulogy to Lawrence Stephen Lowry, painter on his being awarded an honorary Doctorate of Literature

L S Lowry is dead, at 88, after pneumonia and a stroke. Thus he passes into history like the scenes he portrayed.

If he was a genius, it appeared to have brought him little joy and less comfort.

He was a tall, pear-shaped man, living alone, withdrawn, without ostentation, and for years he had tended to complain about his lack of privacy.

He had many callers. When he tired of their company he yawned. A Lowry yawn could be prodigious and it was an unmistakable signal: it meant he was ready to return to his solitude. Just before his birthday in November he emerged from his front door in answer to my knock and his feet scuffed in deep whirlpools of autumn leaves that had gathered in his drive. He was in no mood for birthdays. “Talk about it?” he said. “I’m 88, not 68 you know, and people are still coming; people, people…….”

His old house, stone-built and detached is at Mottram-in-Longdendale, near Stalybridge, Cheshire. To the motorist, the place is just an unmemorable blur between Manchester and Barnsley.

Lowry lived modestly, even frugally, in spite of his success. There is no garden at the front to speak of and the lower windows are shielded by a straggling privet.

He was wearing a clerical grey suit and there was ash down the front of it. It looked like the suit he wore the year before when he was equally impatient of birthdays - “It’s a day, just another day. I’m tired.” He was shown an advertisement for one of his prints: “250 beautiful prints of On the Sands from a guaranteed limited issue of 500. Each print signed by the artist. Signed Lowrys make for a sound investment and have shown sustained profit growth over the years …..” Is that what it was all about, he was asked - investment. “All art has become an investment,” he said.

A droll man, wearing his sadness like a cloak, he could be kind, charming or distant according to the mood. He could give a painting worth £30,000 to an art gallery then complain about the government taking his money in taxes. He was harder than he appeared to be at first sight - much more shrewd. He had to be in the early years.

Lowry was middle-aged before have achieved any real success. Which is why he complained: “People should have come before; that’s when they should have come. They never came to see me then ……”

He was an only child, born in Manchester in 1887. His father was an estate agent and his mother a talented musician. They were comfortably off. Lowry’s teacher at Manchester Regional College of art painted the industrial scene and showed him reproductions of the work of the Impressionists. The two influences were to shape Lowry’s work. He became fascinated by mills and by the people who worked in them. “I could not understand why I had never seen them painted seriously. So I thought: “I’ll try and put matters right. I did it, but suffered on the way.” He was selling a painting a year, on average, for around £30.

He was always po-faced, but behind the non-committal look was a quirkish mind. He would say to young artists: “Give it up before it is too late.” To others he would say: “I am incorrigible lazy - perhaps that is why I have been so industrious all my life.” Or: “Look at that graveyard - nobody there is complaining.” Or: “A married man lives like a dog and dies like a king; a bachelor lives like a king and dies like a dog.” He finished with painting more often than some of his contemporaries started. The files are littered with “last” interviews. He remembered 1918 to 1930 as his best period because he was “fresh to it.” When a buyer once said: “Mr Lowry, you haven’t put a date on this one” he replied, without a smile. “Oh, haven’t I? What would you like? - 1929 was a very good year.”

Once he said: “I suppose if I had my time again I would be a painter, but I don’t think much of it as a life. You get sick of painting pictures. it’s a job like anything else.”


25 February

LOWRY HOME ‘A GOLD MINE’

By Michael Morris

Patiently, carefully, Lowry’s own Lowrys and his Rossettis, his Epstein bust and his Rowlandson cartoon, were listed by the valuers and stowed in two vans by a security firm for safe keeping in the vaults of a branch of the National Westminster Bank.

Outside his stone-built house at Mottram-in-Longdendale, the day after his death, at the age of 88, a group of neighbours, some using “Instamatic” cameras, watched the comings and goings and took photographs. Overnight the police had kept a close watch on the house, which is set apart from its neighbours, like Lowry was himself. Uniformed officers stood by as the men from Securicor packed the vans.

There are even more of the artist’s own collection than was first thought. A preoccupied young women from the valuers was too busy writing the items down in a notebook to add them up. But an official of the bank, which is a co-executor of Mr Lowry’s estate, reckoned that there were many hundreds. They include some framed Lowry paintings, along with a large number of his sketches on paper and in colour on hardboard and paintings by artists he tried to encourage. According to the London dealer Andras Kalman, there could have been anything up to £500,000 worth of pictures scattered.

It took several hours to complete the inventory of the paintings and drawings before even a start could be made on Lowry’s other possessions among then his grandfather clocks, his old radio, clothes and an electric fire with artificial logs. The value of the works, including half a dozen large portraits by Lowry’s favourite pre-Raphaelite painter, Rossetti, will be known only when they have been examined by the experts from London.

In one portfolio there were more than 40 drawings, including a back view of a woman in a shawl, studies of monoliths, bare landscapes, crowd scenes, and a shark half-way through swallowing a swimmer. This confirms Professor Reginald Dodwell’s view that the private collection has major archival interest for students of the future. Professor Dodwell’s gallery, the Whitworth, in Manchester, and Salford city art gallery are laying rival claims to being the site of the proposed Lowry museum, and the professor says that the artist himself told him he wanted it to be at the Whitworth. Mr Alfred Hulme, whose firm of solicitors is one of Lowry’s executors, found many uncounted pictures lying on tables, in cartons or stacked just anywhere when he arrived yesterday.

In Mr Lowry’s bedroom , the removal team found half a dozen large female heads by Rossetti, some dated 1866 and 1868. “At least we think they are Rossettis” said the man from the bank. The bank official who supervised the operation with Mr Hulme said that they had had to move fast and had called in a firm of valuers to record everything in the house. At that stage the items were simply being listed and no attempt was being made to value them specifically. “Our main concern is to get then out of the house before it is burgled,” he said. “It is a gold mine: a sitting duck. We are placing the items where they can’t be stolen.” There was a large proportion of Lowry’s own works in the collection, but he could not say whether it predominated.


Daily Express 25 February

UNVEILING A FIVE HOUR FORTUNE LOWERY ART COLLECTION COULD BE WORTH £1M

By Derek Hornby

The private art collection of L S Lowry was safely locked away in bank vaults last night after a delicate five hour operation to remove them from his home.

The size of the collection - over 140 paintings and drawings worth between £500,000 and £1 million - came as a surprise to the executors of the Lowry estate. It surprised the artist’s 86 year old housekeeper too. “I don’t remember seeing a lot of pictures” said Mrs Betty Swindells last night. “But then I didn’t pry or ask questions. I wasn’t interested in his affairs. Added Mrs Swindells, who looked after Lowry for 22 years: “We cleared out his studio some time ago. He said he was tired of art.”

It could now be several months before the future of the paintings is finally decided for although the 88 year old artist left a will, this was made several years ago and his solicitors are not sure if there are others.

Yesterday’s removal operation from The Elms in Stalybridge Road, Mottram-in-Longdendale near Manchester, went ahead after police had kept an overnight watch on the house.

The paintings included some of Lowry’s own works - among then his portrait of his parents - and a collection of Pre-Raphaelites worth more than £30,000 each. His collection of antique clocks was also loaded into the security vans, together with a Epstein bust that had stood on Lowry’s sideboard. As each painting was carefully carried out, it was catalogued by experts and wrapped in polythene. For security reasons the police, the artist’s solicitors and the National Westminster Bank had refused to give any advance information of their plan. Later a bank spokesman explained: “We could not allow a collection of such value to remain in an empty house. We were surprised at the number of paintings. We did not expect to find so many.”

So where had he kept all the pictures? The clue to that was given last night by a friend of Lowry, London art dealer Andras Kalman who said they were “stacked incommunicado” in a room in the artist’s home”. Lowry had been secretaries about the collection, he said, because so many people “went cadging.”

One complication about the future of the collection is Lowry’s “promise” to leave it to the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester. For a rival claim is likely from neighbouring Salford City Art Gallery, which already has the biggest single collection of Lowry paintings in its 150-canvas exhibition.

Yet another mystery is whether Lowry’s only two known relatives will benefit. They are a distant cousin, Mrs Martha Lowry, of Rochdale, and her daughter, Carol, 32 who lives in the Isle of Man.

The artist’s funeral is expected to be at the Southern Cemetery, Manchester but it is unlikely to be the quiet affair - “with no fuss or bother” - that he wanted. Said a spokesman at Woods Hospital near Glossop, where he died on Monday. “It is in the hands of the executors but they have told us nothing so far.”


26 February

LOWRY’S FUNERAL

The funeral of L S Lowry will be strictly private. “It was Mr Lowry’s wish that his funeral was to be as simple and private as possible, with no flowers.” a spokesman for his executors said yesterday. The hundreds of paintings taken from his home on Tuesday are being held in bank vaults awaiting valuation.


Observer February

ODD MAN OUT

Think of a Lowry. Sky overcast, pipe-cleaner figures scurrying to and fro, leaving work, off to the match, crowding to the scene of an accident. Trippers, mill-workers, layabouts, passers-by: all strangers.

Lowry’s view was detached. He kept himself at a distance, noting behaviour patterns and, at the same time, noticing individual peculiarities. When he singled people out it was to remark upon their limps, squints and nervous habits. Individuals, he implied, are all freaks.

The more honorary doctorates he was given, the more celebrated he became; the more interviewed, and legendary, the further he withdrew. He was cordial but reserved, given to sudden chirrups of enthusiasm, canny about his art, reluctant to discuss it except in chatty terms. This encouraged people to imagine him to be a benign old simpleton. But when you really look at his work it becomes obvious that he was not simply a regional phenomenon with the knack of striking a common chord. The pallid daylight that pervaded his industrial Lancashire spread to Sunderland, Berwick, Scotland, Cornwall and Wales. Everywhere Lowry went the same mists closed in, distancing and isolating and menacing. Loneliness, he used to say, was the reason he became and remained a painter.

But there was also a profound caution. He spent 15 years as an art student in Manchester and Salford and still felt untrained. For a long time he stuck to being rather a pale imitator of Ginner and Bevan of the Camden Town Group. He didn’t have a one-man show until 1939, when he was 52 and permanently set in his ways.

Once developed, the now-familiar Lowry idiom served as a means of surveying the whole world around him. By the 1950s he was producing his most elaborate panoramas of the human ant heap: the style implied comment.

Later he became more economical with his effects - he was always thrifty. So much so that eventually he felt able to discard people altogether sometimes and show nothing but off-white sea and sky. So, far from being a realist, a documentary painter, Lowry was an intense romantic, an odd man out, increasingly reliant on hindsight. He was attracted to leftover places, all of them conducive to melancholy. He observed cripples. The paintings are not wilfully naïve, as if often suggested. They are calculatedly bleak.

Lowry’s popularity stemmed from his success in representing what everybody sees as the true North: dour but homely, once you get past the front door. The pictures reproduced well. But his lasting reputation, his claim to greatness, is likely to rest on his formal skills: his fluent pencil drawings with their telling smudges, the extraordinarily brusque yet delicate way he handled paint. The reserve was a front. Lowry was unique for his imagery, his attitudes, for what he meant to so many.


The Daily Telegraph 28 February

ONLY FOUR WREATHS FOR LOWRY ON A DULL GREY DAY

By John Dunsford

On the dull, “grey sort of day” he had wished for his funeral, L S Lowry, the artist who dies on Monday, aged 88, was buried yesterday in his parents’ grave beneath a chestnut tree in Southern Cemetery, Manchester.

He had also wanted as few people as possible present but about 50 of his close friends and admirers crowded the tine Church of England church in the grounds representing his associations ranging from the Royal Academy, of which he was a member, to people he had befriended and whose homes he visited. One of the bachelor artist’s life-long friends, the Rev. Geoffrey Bennett, 74, who had known him for 50 years after a meeting at the Manchester Academy of Art, officiated at the short service. He said Mr Lowry had wanted the simplest funeral - there were only four wreaths, including one from Tommy Steele, the entertainer, who admired the artist’s work and paid him visits, and another from students from Newcastle University. Details of the time and place of the funeral had been kept secret to all but a few.

Mr Bennett, whose last parish was St Mary’s and St Paul’s, Carlisle said Mr Lowry’s closest friends were those who discovered the uniqueness and potential in his work in his early days and these he always held in special regard. “It has been said he had been a recluse. But I don’t agree because that term means exclusion from one’s fellow men. He lived alone by circumstances rather than choice but he did have his friends both at home and outside and he really enjoyed their company. Rather than inarticulate as has been said, he was a great talker and had a sound philosophy of life and could weigh up people; he was shy and vulnerable but he was not deceived. We thank God for his life’s work. His friends are all the better for having known him and the world better for having had its eyes opened by his penetrating insight into what lies around us.”

On the coffin lay a simple laurel wreath from the Royal Academy and another wreath of daffodils and spring flowers. Among the mourners was Mrs Martha Lowry, not directly related, but whom Mr Lowry is believed to have contacted once when inquiring after possible relatives. He later became a frequent visitor to her council home in Rochdale. With Mrs Lowry was her daughter, Mrs Carole Spiers who, as a girl, he encouraged to paint and who knew him as “uncle”. Turning in tears from the graveside, Mrs Lowry said: “He was a wonderful man. It just isn’t true to say he was a recluse. He had many friends and will be very sadly missed.”

The Royal Academy was represented by Mr James Fitton, R.A. who had known Mr Lowry since 1914 and among figures from the art world was Mr Andras Kalman, the London gallery owner.

Perhaps typifying the sort of encouragement Mr Lowry gave artists in their unknown years, was a local artist, Mrs Liz Taylor, 32, of Timperley, Manchester who met him at one of her first exhibitions in a Manchester store. They exchanged paintings to start “a very wonderful friendship.”


Daily Express 28 February

ON HIS FUNERAL DAY, LOWRY’S HIDDEN WORLD IS REVEALED AND HERE IS THE SURPRISING RESULT - DUET FOR TWO HANDS

By Geoffrey Mather

Here is the picture that would confuse the best experts in the land. It is a genuine Lowry-Riley - a combination of the talents of two of the North’s best known painters.

Yesterday, as L S Lowry was buried, Harold Riley talked about the “game” they used to play. “Lowry would come to my studio in Salford and we would put a canvas down,” he said. “We would paint bits in turn until it was completed.” Riley signed the picture on the left, Lowry on the right. How much is it now worth? No one could guess. It is privately owned. “I could paint you Lowrys” said Harold Riley. “He has influenced my work where I wanted to make figure groups with light and dark contrast. It is really the technique of scraping paint off. There was no short cut. It took months - painting, drying, glazing, scraping, painting again. This is why any Lowry forgeries would be drawings. A forged painting would be the easiest thing in the world to detect.”

Years ago they reached agreement: between then they would portray the life of Salford and the area around it over a span of 100 years. Yesterday the first part of the agreement was concluded when 88 year old Lowry was buried in his family tomb at Southern Cemetery, Manchester. For Riley, at 40, the challenge continues - to cover the rest of the century they planned together.


18 March

LOWRYS GO FOR £34,155

By Donald Wintersgill

Nine works by L S Lowry, the first to come up at auction since his death, made a total of £34,155 at Sotherby’s yesterday.

“Sun Fair at Daisy Nook” done in 1957 and showing a crowd of his stick-like figures, fetched £14,300. The others, of lesser quality fetched between £605 and £5,720. Some of the prices were well above expectations, as can happen soon after a painter’s death.


Yorkshire Post 6 May

LOWRY’S HEAD SCULPTED JUST BEFORE DEATH

A head of the late L S Lowry sculpted by Sam Tomkiss the Todmorden sculptor has been bought by the National Portrait Gallery in London.

Mr Tomkiss learned of the purchase when his agent offered the gallery a head of the Northern artist but got the reply: “We already have one, and. Happily for Mr Tomkiss, it is one of his.” “Apparently they bought it in an auction and I do not know how much they paid. I was rather surprised to hear that my work was on view at the gallery,” said Mr Tomkiss yesterday.

He began sculpting as a hobby when he was 50 and now at 67 is kept busy with commissions arranged by George Aird, a Manchester art dealer. A few months before Lowry died Mr Aird persuaded him to sit for Mr Tomkiss and had the resulting head cast in bronze to produce a limited edition of 36. “I think I am the only one Mr Lowry every sat for. I believe he once started sitting for someone else, but never returned for the next session. He was very good with me however and we became good friends,” said Mr Tomkiss who retired two years ago as editor of the Todmorden News. Mr Tomkiss works in clay and then a plaster cast is made before the final stage of bronze casting.


Daily Mail 11 August

STAR ROLE FOR LOWTY AND ‘BROTHER’ FRED

Artist L S Lowry’s stick-like figures are to brought to life in a stage show and Lowry, who created girls and factory hands with waistlines as slim as mill chimneys, could become the star.

The new production, called Lowry Street, will be premiered in October by the newly formed Shuttle Theatre Company based in Manchester. “We are hoping that it will be a tribute to a great artist and a shy, private man,” said actor Simon Molloy.

The company has been studying Lowry’s paintings, talking to his friends and reading newspaper cuttings on his life to produce the play and it plans to introduce the artist on stage via his fictional brother, Fred. “Lowry was notoriously reluctant to answer his door,” said another member, Alan Partington. “He invented this brother, Fred. When somebody came to his door he would say: ‘Mr Lowry is not in, I’m his brother and I’ll tell him you called.’ “We are hoping to use Fred in the show.”

The company was formed earlier this year to create work for northern actors and directors and provide a touring theatre. It includes Alan Rothwell of ITV’s Hickory House, Paul Webster of BBC Radio and two husband and wife teams, Paul and Sally Gibson and Dinah Handley and her husband Alan Partington. “We have an exceptionally strong team,” said Paul Gibson who brought the group together. “There are so many good performers living in the area.”

Shuttle’s first production ‘A Little Stiff Built Chap’ opens at Middle Civic Centre on 23 September.

‘Lowry Street’ a tribute to Lowry who died earlier this year, opens in Buxton with other venues including Romiley and Oldham.


Daily Mail 3 September

LOWRY LIVES! TOO LATE THE EXHIBITION COMES FOR THE MAN WHO TURNED WORK INTO ART

By Richard Lay

When L S Lowry was asked by the Royal Academy if he would agree to a big exhibition he shook his head, screwed up his nose and said, ‘Oh such a lot of trouble. I’m far too old to cope.’ He changed his mind, as all his friends knew he would, and in the last days before he died - in February this year, at the age of 88 - he had become very excited at the idea.

Tomorrow the genius of Lowry, court painter to the working classes, whose match-stick figures against industrial scenes of the North became folklore long before his death, will be on display at Burlington House. The exhibition will last until 14 November. He loved brass bands and, fittingly, the G.U.S. (Kettering) Brass Band will play in the courtyard as the first of the Lowry disciples file in to feast on 335 paintings and drawings.

He produced about 3,000 works during his life and the Royal Academy have gathered together the cream - about 75% of them coming from private collections. The industrial scenes are there, the familiar figures and chimneys and buildings from which one can almost detect the smell of hot-pot and Woodbine smoke - these are the real masterpieces.

The master’s old friend, Professor Carel Weight, who has been responsible for the selection of works in the show, was in close contact with Lowry until two weeks before his death. “The last time I saw him as he went home in a taxi he said to me, ‘I’m so much looking forward to it all now - see you at Burlington House.’

Although in recent years Lowry stopped painting, he continued to draw on scraps of paper and envelopes and hundreds of pieces of paper were found in his home after his death. He was also well aware that there were people only too anxious to exploit his fame and as Prof. Weight recalls, ‘He knew what was going on. People would ask him to sign modern prints of his work so that they would become valuable. One of his last drawings was of himself surrounded by sharks.’

The RA show illustrates the other side of Lowry, the observer of pure landscapes, and seascapes - a facet of his career many tend to forget. He was a great admirer of the Impressionists and it is significant to remember that his teacher, Adolphe Valette, had in turn been taught by Degas. In the landscapes there are hints of Monet and Courbet and his later work echoes of the German Expressionists - satirical, mocking and, most important, humorous.

He was so pleased when he heard that some of his work was in the Queen’s collection. And if he could have been at his own show he would have been even more delighted - because she heads the loan list.


Manchester Evening News

SIX LOWRY PAINTINGS ARE SOLD FOR £113,000

Six paintings by Salford’s famous “matchstick men” artist, L S Lowry, have been sold for £113,000.

The works, mainly featuring North-East scenes, went under the hammer at Sotherby’s in London. Top seller was a 1962 painting titled South Shields which went to an anonymous private buyer for £33,000. Next came a 1959 wok called The Thames from Whitehall Court which went to a London dealer for £24,200. The estimated value was £18,000 to £15,000. Then came a 1962 picture title Dockside, Sunderland which was sold to a London dealer for £22,000. The estimated value was £20,000 to £30,000. Barges on a Canal painted in 1944 went to an anonymous buyer for £15,400. The estimated value was £8,000 to £12,000. Next was Old Windmill, Bexhill painted in 1960 which was bought by the Bexhill Museum for £9,000. The estimated value was £6,000 to £8,000. Tanker entering the Tyne painted in 1967 went to a London dealer for £8,000. The estimated value was £6,000.


Observer 12 September

LOWRY IN EASY STREET

By William Feaver

I didn’t attempt a head count, but they must run into millions. Strollers, loiterers, bystanders. Busybodies making beelines for somewhere. Besides the myriad hand-painted folk, there are hundreds of pencilled freaks and nobodies. Also hosts of live supporters: L S Lowry fans paying their respects and taking a delight in the old marvel’s handling of the passing show.

The Royal Academy’s Lowry exhibition is a decidedly celebratory occasion. ‘How good to have known Mr Lowry’ the organisers surely chanted to themselves. ‘Who painted such volumes of stuff.’ Just on 340 works have been accommodated, spanning 70 years.

More is not necessarily better. Particularly not with an artist who so established himself as easy to recognise. Think of the number, then envisage it in terms of Lowrys: the recurrent Prussian Blue linework and gashed swamp effects, the viaducts, chimneystacks and other handy punctuation marks. Placed end to end they stretch for miles, it seems, and, where the paintings and drawings tail off, photographs show the artist at work or pottering round his localities. A cheery little shot of him in his raincoat is repeatedly used to usher us from one room to the next. Wherever we look Lowrydom closes in. It’s a blow-out.

The exhibition wends its way sort of chronologically. There are sudden pauses for comparisons between Lowry’s plus ça change treatments of scenes and themes in different decades. This inconsequential flow isn’t just a matter of over-generous choice and pitter-patter hanging. It stems from the works themselves.

Lowry’s prolonged formative years, life-studying away at evening classes, gradually homing on the industrial backdrop, turn out to be the most interesting as far as his development is concerned. By 1920 he was producing not just variations on the drizzly Mancunian Impressionism of his teacher Adolphe Valette, or vague attempts at Muirhead Bone or even Orpen manners, but Lowrys proper. That is, paintings with a trudging, ominous quality. His landmarks then started to appear: the mills blocking vistas flat-on and sooty churches hove-to in pale graveyards. Sights such as Caspar David Friedrich had mooned over.

Having settled into his style, Lowry was apparently content to rub along as the fancy took him, cultivating his patch and specialities. In all those years his preoccupations hardly changed. Maybe loneliness deepened, and the sharp eye for cripples and weirdies. But too much gets read into the spaces between his shadow less people. More often than not the scale and detailing of his pictures seems to have depended on straightforward decisions. Was this view to be populated or uncluttered? Spooky or jolly? A major effort or a quick glimpse?

After his retirement from the full time job of Chief Cashier for the Pall Mall Property Co. Ltd. In 1952 Lowry’s paintings reached peak complexity. Later on, as his stamina decreased, pencil sketches took over as his main means of expression. The panoramas, though, had always been omnibus editions of his drawings. The success of both depended on the clarity of the initial idea, sturdy architectural arrangements, human quirks briskly observed. When he took on what was too obviously a readymade Lowry, terraced Welsh mining valleys, for instance, in the mid-sixties, the outcome was fudged acres.

Some of the epic townscapes stand out as feats of multiplication and deployment, every item balanced up: ‘V E Day,’ where a rash of mainly red bunting speckles the streets, ‘Going to the Match’ and ‘Industrial Landscape,’ the one he did as a semi-official commission for the Festival of Britain. This is the grandest and most comprehensive of his Worktown prospects.

But Lowry at his most characteristic is more a two-reeler Chaplin. His Easy Streets are inhabited not by individuals or people but by bit-players in cameo roles. There are jokes and comic turns galore. Two bulky men in a boat on a heaving pond. A crowd straggling up a hill to read a sign there telling them, presumably, that they have reached the top. Elongated dachshunds.

As with Chaplin, Lowry scenarios are apt to gell into routine or go sweet-and-sour: benign phases followed up with menaces. Arrests are made and accidents happen, parks fill with misshapen solitaries. And when the figures are cleared out of the way, leaving dim moors, seashore or recreation ground, its exactly the point where The Little Man has fidgeted into the distance and The End comes up on the screen. Over and over again it happens in the course of what surely must be the Lowry show to end all big Lowry shows. He is better represented (as at the Lefevre gallery recently) in small concentrations.

1977

Daily Telegraph

SALFORD AS LOWRY MECCA

A plan to make Salford a mecca for Lowry lovers was set in motion yesterday. The city council which already owns many of the late L S Lowry’s paintings, authorised a start to negotiations to buy a £30,000 collection.

Altogether 50 paintings and 260 drawings - some unfinished - are believed to be for sale, but months of talks with the Lowry estate trustees, may be needed before a deal can be completed.

It was decided to set aside £8,000, saved from wages, as a down payment to secure the works, which include personal letters and some of the artist’s belongings.

Lowry was born in Rusholme, Manchester, but spent most of his working life in Swinton, Salford. He died last February. Mr Mike Devereux, city cultural services manager, said: “They will enhance our present collection and make us the centre for Lowry students. I would like to put in the first bid for I am afraid the collection would be broken up and auctioned.”

Mr John Owen, the city treasurer said: “There is a lot more homework to be done. It is only when Lowry’s beneficiary returns from America that we can start talking.”

The council plans to appeal to charities and art galleries throughout Britain to raise the extra £22,000 when the deal is made. Councillor Joe Murphy told the meeting: “Lowry was Salford. When he died, a part of Salford was lost.”


Daily Telegraph 18 or 19 January

TORY ATTACKS PURCHASE OF LOWRY WORKS

A Tory councillor has attacked Salford Council’s plan to buy a collection of Lowry works.

Councillor John Hardaway of Eccles criticised buying the £30,000 collection when the country was in the midst of a financial crisis. “At a time when we are struggling to maintain vital services it is just not right we should buy the works. How can we support the Government’s cut in the rate support grant and then buy Lowry paintings? This is a luxury,” he said at yesterday’s council meeting.

The council agreed to set aside £8,000 which has been saved from wages, as a down payment on the works, believed to number 50 paintings and 260 drawings.


Daily Telegraph 4 September

LOWRY

MAN BEHIND THE MASK

L S Lowey once made a memorable comparison between accuracy and rightness: “I saw the industrial scene, and I was affected by it. I tried to paint it. All the time I tried to paint the industrial scene as well as I could. It wasn’t easy. I wanted to get a certain effect on the canvas. I couldn’t describe it, but I knew when I’d got it. Well, a camera could have done the scene straight off, That was no use to me. I wanted to get an industrial scene and be satisfied with the picture.”

The biographer’s biggest problem is to write a life which combines the best elements of accuracy and rightness. This is complicated in Lowry’s case by the fact that the artist himself published a number of autobiographical accounts which, though they presented an acceptable and fairly consistent self-portrait, were comparatively shallow and not fundamentally accurate. There was a timidity in his character which promoted deviousness, and he remained always a very private person. “You could talk to him for an hour,” recalled a friend, “but not know anything more about him if that was his choice.”

Lowry has a few close acquaintances whom he encouraged, separately, to believe that they shared - alone with himself - some of the secrets of his past. These confidants were selected from different areas of life so that in normal circumstances they were unlikely to meet one another. If later a possibility arose that tracks would join, Lowry engineered the contours of his daily life to put off the confrontation as long as possible, and in the meantime he doctored the relevant accounts of his history so that they were in a decent state to marry when they met.

Not every passage of the chronicle was individually tailored. Because he lived for 88 years and was at once lonely and articulate, Lowry tended to be voluble when the occasion for speech did arise, and he shaped many of his anecdotes and self-deprecations into a classic form weathered by time and human reaction.

Much of Lowry’s past, as filtered through Lowry’s lips, comes down as an oral tradition which is remembered in standard, often identical, phrases by many separate friends. Some of the accounts, particularly of incidents that involve Lowry’s sentimental life, were given to different people in alternative versions which, when matched, cannot both be true. All the accounts are falsified when they deal with Lowry’s means of livelihood between the ages of 15 and 65, which in fact depended on an embarrassingly plebeian and commercial employment.

Because this vital area governed later assumptions about his artistic development, Lowry not only told less than the trust: on occasion he blatantly lied. He allowed many people to infer or believe that he had always had money, that he had been an almost perpetual student, that his parents had left him a private income sufficient to survive on. But when he saw the necessity to lie direct, he did so.

In 1966 Edwin Mullins was superintending the great Lowry Retrospective Exhibition at the Tate Gallery and was preparing the catalogue commentary. Lowry made the following statement to Mullins, and perused it without protest when it was published in The Sunday Telegraph of 20 November 1966: “Of course I often used to wonder if I’d ever make any money. I was living at home, so it wasn’t urgent, but every now and then I felt thoroughly fed up and I’d say: ‘This is ridiculous: I’ll take a job.’ But I didn’t like the thought of going to the office with a bag in my hand at half past nine every morning. And then some little sale would come along - there were always buyers in Manchester and Salford - and that was enough to keep me going for another year.”

The fact was that for 49 successive years Lowry had taken his bag to an office long before half past nine every weekday morning. After a period as office boy and insurance clerk, he served over 42 years as, consecutively rent collector, clerk, cashier and acting secretary to a firm of housing property owners, from which he retired at the age of 65 on a pension which he later commuted.

Money enough for sustenance was never lacking; time and daylight were. By maintaining an astonishing intensity of production he painted all the “great Lowrys” - the pictures being sold before and after his death at up to £35,000 - in the leisure hours snatched from a full working week. Whether or not the more disturbing paintings made after he had retired are greater has still to be determined.

The myth of Lowry’s material struggle as an independent artist is only important because Lowry bothered to create it. The motive concerned his artistic struggle He must have known that the myth could only last his lifetime. His reason for creating it was clear: “The main thing, it seems to me, is to let the people know that I was trained. I’m tired of people saying ‘You’re self-taught aren’t you?” I’m sick of it. I drew the life class. I did the life drawing for 12 solid years as well as I could and that, I think, is the foundation of painting. I don’t think you can teach painting, because everybody’s colour sense is different. But drawing: the model’s there, and you either get it right or wrong. There’s no question of that. If you can draw the life, you can draw anything.”

Lowry did his training at evening classes, because he was working full-time during the day in an office in central Manchester, only relieved by days of tramping round the slums collecting working-class rents. It is facile to suggest that because of his commercial, un-Bohemian background he was despised by the art establishment of Manchester and that consequently he tried to suppress as completely as possible any admission that he had not been a full-time painter.

The truth is more subtle. Lowry was despised by the art establishment of Manchester - and open laughter inside a gallery from the elders of his tribe is not a criticism that an artist can take lightly. Lowry severed his connection with the Manchester Academy, but through the 1920s he was to endure many years of being cold-shouldered. The Manchester art establishment rejected Lowry because, in a superficial sense, they knew him too well. He had left art school at the age of 35. He had been known there for 17 years. It would have been futile to have pretended that he had been a day student rather than attending the night class. And, to give them their due, the local art world did not despise him for that. Bur they knew him, in their contemporary use of the word, as a queer fellow of long standing.

Lowry was a solitary, from intensity of thought rather than deficiency of character: it was not that he was unsocial or uncommunicative, but that he needed to be wooed, and younger extroverts rarely had the patience to woo him. This odd man went his individual way, and when at intervals he produced odd pictures it was natural to laugh at them.

At the time when his talent began to be recognised, around his 60th birthday, there were many people in Manchester - friends, business acquaintances, and the neighbours - who knew that Lowry held a job in the town. There was nothing very surprising in that fact. But during the next, swift phase Lowry moved from the neighbourhood he had lived in for 40 years, retired from work, and virtually cut himself off from all his old acquaintances. As the years passed, and Lowry lived on for almost another generation in a new environment, choosing new friends and releasing selected items of history to them on an exclusive basis.

Having fashioned the myth, Lowry even deceived those who helped him to build it, though he daringly gave them his motive. “I know, I know,” he told a team making a film about him. “Many people assume that I am technically incapable. That is what you have got to confute. You’ve got to get rid of the idea that I am untrained ….. The great aim of this project is to convince people that I’m not a Sunday painter.” Then self-deprecation broke through: “Well. I am a Sunday painter. It’s just that I paint every other day of the week as well.”

Physically he was always tall, in youth gangling and clumsy; in age never bent below six feet, never bulkier than 14 stone; always formally clad in what seemed an eternal suit of clerical grey; a strong, muscular face with piercing grey-blue eyes and a great prow of a nose. His accent was mainline Manchester, occasionally reaching back into the richness of Lancashire. The manner of his speech was very diversified. Like many solitary people who talk to themselves some of the time, he often indulged in an old-fashioned volubility, almost Dickensian in its wilful characterisation, the explosion of one sentence spontaneously setting off another, less important, and that leading to other muttered reverberations, like a benign roll of distant thunder or a short burst of shunting in a steam train: “You like that picture? Do you really? How very interesting. I am pleased. You do me an honour, sir.” One talks to pets or infants in this way, but Lowry had neither, though he did conduct growling matches with other people’s dogs and cats.

It was not that Lowry was garrulous. He controlled his outpourings and even shaped them artistically. As a lover of Bach he was perhaps offering his own fugato passes - a fugue has been neatly defined as organic growth out of small material. Here is his version - one of many variations - of an occasion in Winchester when he was sketching a bearded woman as she pushed a pram uphill, and she turned and swore at him for, as she thought, laughing at her: “You remember that lady with the beard pushing the pram? People say they can never find subjects as grotesque as mine. Well, I saw her. I saw her in Winchester. A dreadful to-do sir. Oh, the language! I turned pale, In Winchester of all places, sir. I don’t like to think about it.”

At times Lowry’s controlled comedy in decorating his own mundane remarks seems to reach the impossible art of a conjuror who can keep butterflies, instead of coloured balls, indefinitely in the air and snatch them back at will. He once said to Robert Robinson, regarding the dismal home he set up for himself at Mottram, Cheshire, which he loathed: “I have been meaning to move from here for, oh, I don’t know how many years. But I don’t know where to go. I don’t know where I’d like to go. I used to look at maps when I was a young man going on my holidays. And I couldn’t see anywhere I wanted to go. In fact, If I looked at the map long enough I’d start disliking everywhere, very violently indeed.”

There was another Lowry who was far more insecure, and showed it in constant inquiries to people of judgement on the subject of the lasting importance of his work. “Will I live? Will I live?” was his recurring question. Yet when it was Lowry’s turn to speak as an observer of the art world, he did not with shrewd irony and an accurate eye: “Every week people write to me wanting to buy pictures. They haven’t much money but if I could let them have a small picture for £20 ……. It’s surprising what a lot of people short of money write to me.”

When Lowry was 15 he came to the end of his formal schooldays. His own version of his life story takes its first notable lurch from the truth here. Lowry’s general guideline is: “My parents saw me as useless. But there was enough money to keep me. I drifted into art, but they didn’t believe in it, and did not think I could make anything of it. But what could they do? I was their son.”

To Edwin Mullins, Lowry said: “It was suggested that I went in for art as I was fit for nothing else. At school I had a few friends and I never passed any exams. An aunt remembered that I’d drawn little ships when I was eight years of age. So that was that. It was any port in a storm. I went to the Manchester School of At in 1095 and stayed there a great many years. I was living at home, so it was not urgent to make any money.”

The truth is, as one of the few authentic archives in the Lowry sage shows, that in 1903 Lowry, aged 15, took a job as a clerk in the office of Thomas Aldred & Son, chartered accountants, of 88 Mosley Street in the centre of Manchester, and whether or not he had previously passed any examinations he at least applied himself successfully to learning shorthand and reached a speed of 60 to 80 words a minute. He stayed with the accountants for over four years. Leaving after his 20th birthday in November 1907, to take up a position at 28 shillings a week as claims clerk with the General Accident Fire & Life Assurance Corporation of Cross Street, also in the centre of Manchester. He was made redundant in 1910 when he was 22 and in the next month applied for and obtained a job as rent collector and clerk with a firm of estate agents, the Pall Mall Property Company, where he remained for over 42 years, until he retired. The term “estate agent” should perhaps be more clearly defined. In Victorian and Edwardian times a very common type of small investment by quite modest people was to buy a working-class house, which might be obtained for £300, and to let it as an additional source of income. The collection of the rent was carried out by an estate agency. When he went out rent-collecting Lowry saw working-class life at close quarters. And later he used to say that meeting people in this way was a great help to his painting.