Bonhams to auction major work by L.S. Lowry

The small fishing town of Wick at the northern end of Scotland in Caithness has been captured by L.S. Lowry in this large work which is estimated to sell for £500,000 to £800,000 at Bonhams next sale of Modern British and Irish art on 20 November in London’s New Bond Street.

L.S. Lowry painted Black Steps, WickThe image and occasion of this painting is commemorated with an engraved plaque of the painting at the site of the steps in Wick. It bears the legend: ‘This is the original site where L.S. Lowry painted Black Steps, Wick in 1936.” Lowry used to holiday in Scotland during the 1930’s.
This oil on canvas by Laurence Stephen Lowry R.A. (British, 1887-1976), titled ‘Steps at Wick’ is signed and dated ‘L.S. LOWRY. 1937’ and measures 43.2 x 53.3 cm. (17 x 21 in.). Famous for his ‘matchstick’ figures Bonhams believe this picture could strike a light with many of Lowry’s massive following.

The steps pictured in Lowry’s image were part of Thomas Telford’s 1809 scheme for the new town plan of Pulteneytown for the British Fisheries Society. The Black Stairs were part of Telford’s original plan for Pulteneytown linking the residential area above the bank, via Lower Dunbar Street, to the harbor below. The steps were, however, not begun until the 1820s. Their name The Black Stairs appears to be a local, popular one as it does not feature in Telford’s plan. The town of Wick straddles the river Wick and extends along both sides of Wick Bay.
An anti-establishment figure, Lowry holds the record for rejecting the most state honors, including a knighthood.

Lowry had an isolated upbringing in northern England. He spent many solitary early years in the leafy Manchester suburb of Victoria Park, Rusholm, later moving to the town of Pendlebury which was the inspiration for his industrial scenes. He is particularly recognized for his trademark ‘matchstick men’ represented in desolate industrial and urban landscapes.

The picture was exhibited in Edinburgh by Aitken Dott & Son and also in The Scottish Arts Council, Modern Art from Scottish Houses; Inaugural Exhibition of the Scottish Arts Council’s New Gallery, 13 July-9 August 1969. In London by the Crane Kalman Gallery, L.S. Lowry, A Selection of 36 Paintings, 4 November-6 December 1975 and in the London, Royal Academy of Arts, L.S. Lowry, R.A., 1887-1976, 4 September-14 November 1976.