L.S. Lowry is coming to Tate Britain
I was thrilled by the news last week that Tate Britain will be honouring the work of frequently overlooked British industrial landscape painter L.S. Lowry from 25 June to 20 October 2013. The only frustration is that I have a whole year to wait until the spectacle hits London!
Lowry has long been one of my favourite British artists, ever since my parents purchased a tiny cottage in rural Isle of Wight almost 20 years ago, and along with the various odds and ends left in the cottage by the previous owner, there was a strangely gloomy yet enticing industrial scene hanging on the wall together with a group of funny little people walking around in the foreground.
I was strangely fascinated by the image, which bared very little resemblance to the fresh, green bucolic landscape surrounding the cottage. Rather this industrial scene was rather bleak, in monotone shades of browns and greys, with vast forests of chimneys puffing smoke into the air in a continuous, unyielding fashion, while the workers all dressed in the same earthy tones looked the same – small cogs in a spiritless industrial machine. Despite its apparent despondency, the painting fascinated me, for it showed a snap shot of the humdrum of modern life, but in a style which was both naive but accessible. I had been introduced to Lowry, and I have been hooked ever since.
It is perhaps because of the naivety of Lowry’s draftsmanship, such as his figures, which are often referred to as “matchstick men” which has caused him to be relatively overlooked in the history of British art. I have often looked on amazon, for example, for a catalogue of Lowry’s oeuvre, but have found publications of his works to be woefully lacking. The only exhibitions I have attended of his works have been small scale sales of limited edition prints in private galleries, and I must have bemoaned the lack of a retrospective show of his work on at least a dozen occasions. It is therefore with great excitement that I await Tate’s show, and in the meantime fully intend to get everyone else excited by a small gallery below of some of Lowry’s works.
Bleak and grey as ever, the works rarely diversify from depicting scenes of industrialised Northern England where Lowry was born and worked and which, during the years of Queen Victoria’s reign had become a hub of industrialised growth leading to a population boom but a vast decrease in living conditions. Lowry demonstrates that England is not all lush green and pleasant lands as captured in works by Constable, or grand waterways and misty sea views as pronounced with such effect by Turner. Rather, these industrialised landscapes are typical of much of the country, even to this day, and Lowry’s paintings not only reflect upon the 20th century urban landscape, but also focus on the everyday lives of the ordinary masses. Yet in doing so, he rarely focuses on a single individual. Rather, through painting large groups, Lowry represents a typical city day for what it really is – large groups of people, all stripped of personality, as towns become influxed with workers, and the individual merges into one roving mass. Like the impressionists before him, Lowry is a proponent of the ordinary, but unlike the Manets and Degas of this world, Lowry depicts lives as most of us see them – crowds of faceless individuals, who represent statistics, but whose stories remain locked in the crowds.
Information of Tate’s forthcoming show can be found here.
- Picasso at Tate – highlight of London’s exhibition year so far (normsonline.wordpress.com)
- New Tate show to ‘reassess’ Lowry after ‘shame’ campaign (theweek.co.uk)
- Tate Modern and L.S. Lowry (artchicken.wordpress.com)