Modern British & 20th Century Art - 29 Nov 2017


‡Laurence Stephen Lowry RA (1887-1976)

£30,000 - £50,000 £98,000

‡Laurence Stephen Lowry RA (1887-1976)

Figure study

Signed and dated 1949

Oil on canvas

22.5 x 15cm


Alex Reid & Lefevre Gallery, London, 1953, where purchased by the present owner

L.S. Lowry was already drawing at the age of 8. After leaving school at 16 Lowry worked full time for a firm of accountants until his retirement aged 65. Partly as a result of his full time employment he remained a solitary figure in the art world and developed a unique approach to painting, creating a style and intensity of observation that never waned throughout his career. After he moved to Pendlebury in Lancashire with his parents in 1909, Lowry initially stopped painting his surroundings, but in 1916 he was waiting for a train and became captivated with workers leaving the factories and mills in the area and it suddenly dawned on him that he was surrounded by inspiration for his work. This event set the mould for his painting for the next 30 years and his views of Manchester and the surrounding industrial areas have become icons of Modern British Art and are now appreciated on a global level. Lowry's use of just four colours and white, applied directly from the tube gives his work an abrupt feel which suited the subjects he chose, but the complexity of the application of the paint, often building up the layers methodically to create depth was a technique he formulated on his own. The present painting, from 1949, was painted at a time when Lowry was beginning to tire of industrial scenes populated with his trademark small figures. Many of the mills had been modernised and for the painter this reduced the appeal. However he moved on to observing the people of the area and was especially preoccupied with those that had clearly lived in the area for all their lives. He depicted young and old, and painted them exactly as they were, with no idealisation. Lowry remained a remote figure in the art world even in his last years despite the acclaim he received in his lifetime. He turned down a knighthood as well as other accolades, but perhaps his stoic refusal to be swayed by the outside world is what kept his work so genuine and distinctive.

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