UNSEEN LOWRY EMERGES AFTER 50 YEARS FOR SALE AT BONHAMS FOR HALF A MILLION

“Lowry is original, and even revolutionary in his vision. No one else to my knowledge has been so sensitively aware of the poetry of the English industrial landscape” (Sir Herbert Read)

BONHAMS next sale of 20th Century British Art at New Bond Street on Tuesday 26th June will feature a rare find – an L.S. Lowry painting bought by its present owner in 1959 and never previously seen in public. Titled, `Industrial Landscape’ the picture is signed and dated ‘L S LOWRY 1958.’ An oil on canvas sized 50.8 x 61 cm (20 x 24 in), the work is estimated to sell for half a million. Prior to the sale at Bonhams the painting will be exhibited by The Lowry, in Salford during April & May.

When the owner visited The Lefevre Gallery, London, 1959 to purchase another Lowry. She was disappointed there were no large industrial landscapes available for sale. So when this painting arrived directly from the artist the gallery called her and she bought the picture for £300 before it could be exhibited.

Matthew Bradbury, Head of 20th Century British Art at Bonhams says, “Industrial landscape is a remarkably easy painting to engage with. Its composition is thoroughly structured with the complex interaction of working class people in the foreground through to the beautifully composed architecture in the middle distance leading on to the comprehensive industrial background incorporating numerous chimneys. Most exciting,the painting has never previously been seen in public as it was purchased from the Lefevre Gallery before exhibition. Of its size (20 x 24in), it is among the very best Lowry’s I have ever seen. ”

Lindsay Brooks, the Director of The Lowry Gallery in Salford says,” We are delighted to be able to share this picture with our visitors at The Lowry, prior to its sale. Industrial Landscape has many of the qualities that make Lowry’s paintings so accessible and it will be a very welcome temporary addition to our exhibition.

Church spires appear in the distance alongside factories and their chimneys, which belt out plumes of smoke. In the foreground figures huddle around and bustle across the street from one place to the next. These anonymous figures seem oblivious to the all-seeing eye of the artist and spectator. Mothers push prams, children play; darkly clothed figures walk purposefully and aimlessly alike. The detail continues to the very edges of the composition, where buildings are cropped and steam trains only partly visible as their forms continue beyond the confines of the canvas.

The painting is a testament to Lowry’s skill as an artist, managing as he has to contain his vision in such an agreeable and pleasing form. As one critic put it, Lowry ‘made beauty out of the ugliness of mean streets.’

Lowry says so much with so little. Using a limited palette of just five colours – flake white, vermilion, Prussian blue, ivory, black and ochre, he is able to evoke the buzzing atmosphere of a thriving metropolis. Ironically, in reality, the reverse was actually the case. By the late 1950s, when the present work was painted, the rapid expansion and modernisation of northern towns such as Manchester and Salford was already waning. In this context, it is easy to see that Industrial Landscape is a magnificent example of Lowry at his finest.

It is for his paintings of the industrialised north that LS Lowry’s is best known, and it is easy to see, in Industrial Landscape, how the artist gained a unique place in the conscience of British collectors. Everything in the painting is handled with the ease and confidence of an artist who is working to the very best of his ability.

It has been well documented how Lowry’s urban paintings were often fantastical constructions, taking various elements of a city, such as factories, streets, bridges, chimneys, and bringing them together on canvas to produce a purely fictional and idealised view. Such paintings could only be made given an in depth knowledge of the city and its fabric, and for Lowry, the city that was his source of inspiration was that of his birthplace – Manchester.

L.S. Lowry (1887-1876) is the most important and easily recognisable twentieth century artist from the North West of England. He was born in the outskirts of Manchester where he spent much of his working life and from where many of his artistic influences were drawn. Northern mills, industrious towns and the overworked people who populated them are usual features, always depicted in a detached and somewhat lonely fashion. Although he was not a reclusive artist, Lowry was a singular character who lived an ascetic and chaste existence, barely touched by the fame and popularity which came in the later years of his working life. As a young man and through his job as a debt-collector, Lowry would frequently wander through the streets of the city observing the life brimming within it. In 1909 Lowry’s family moved to the suburb of Pendlebury and it was soon after this move that Lowry first became interested in painting the industrial world around him. The visual stimuli of Manchester and its environs provided Lowry with an enormous repository from which to compose his visions of what was a quickly metamorphosing world.

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