For some reason that I don't fully understand, I've always loved the paintings of LS Lowry and examples of his work cover my walls at home. Since I was very young, his works of art have captivated my imagination and inspired me. At first, they seem basic or simple due to the use of stylised figures and the lack of weather effects, but I think that's part of the magic, depicting working class people in working class surrounding enjoying life. I think the rest lies in his life story and the fact that it overlapped mine; he was alive when I was.
Laurence Stephen Lowry was born an only child in Old Trafford, Manchester (UK), on 1st November 1887. He moved to Pendlebury in Salford with his parents in 1909, where he was to live for nearly 40 years.
He had few friends at school and passed no exams, but it was decided that he should enrol at Manchester School of Art which he did in 1905, for evening classes. He joined Salford School of Art for evening classes in 1915, which is where his work on the matchstick figures developed.
He had his first job in 1904 where he 'drifted into' office work as a clerk with a Manchester accountant. In 1910 Lowry took a job with a property company in Manchester as a rent collector, and stayed with them for the next 42 years. He spent much of his working life walking the poorest streets of Manchester and its surrounding area, and this is where his vision formed.
Lowry first exhibited in 1919 at Manchester Art Gallery. By 1945 Lowry had created 3 exhibitions and was starting to establish himself. By the 1950s the Royal Academy had invited him to join and his fame and success were assured. Lowry always claimed loneliness and dissatisfaction, but I wonder to what degree he really wanted anything different.
He didn't just paint scenes around Manchester, he also painted a few pictures of London, including one of Piccadilly Circus, with his trademark 'matchstick people' wearing bowler hats and London fashions. Also, he made lots of trips to South Shields (yes just like Bergerac, he has been to Shields!) and painted lots of seaside works some of which have South Shields in their title.
In 1957 an unrelated thirteen-year-old schoolgirl called Carol Ann Lowry wrote to Lowry at her mother's urging to ask his advice on becoming an artist. He made a surprise visit to her home in Heywood, Lancashire some months later, and befriended the family. His friendship with Carol Ann Lowry was to last the rest of his life.
During his life Lowry had painted and drawn some 2000-3000 pieces, Harold Wilson had offered him a knighthood and used 'The Pond' as his official Christmas card in 1964. Lowry's picture 'Coming out of school' was the highest value stamp in a series depicting great British artists in 1967. You'd have to have paid 1/6 (one and six) to get one of these at the post office.
He left Pendlebury in 1948 when the landlord re-possessed the house, moving to Mottram-in-Longdendale, Cheshire, where he lived until he died in 1976. Lowry was buried in Chorlton Southern Cemetery, sharing the grave of his parents. A stone cross bears the simple inscription: 'Also their beloved son, Laurence Stephen Lowry. Born Nov 1, 1887, died Feb 23, 1976.' He left his entire estate to Carol Ann Lowry, the young girl he had befriended many years earlier.
But all of these things were to pale into insignificance some 40 years later. On 27th April 2000, the multi-million pound Millennium Project 'The Lowry' opened in Salford and is home to around 300 works of Lowry, with about 100 always on display. It's a purpose built gallery totally dedicated to the works of Lowry and very deserved.
It's funny how things turn out...