Lawrence Stephen Lowry in CumbriaLaurence Stephen Lowry was born in Old Trafford, Manchester (UK), on November 1st, 1887. He moved to Pendlebury in Salford with his parents in 1909, where he was to live for nearly 40 years. Despite the inexorable link between Lowry and working class life, he did not grow up in poverty.
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.
‘Coming from the Mill’, 1930Lowry first exhibited in 1919 at Manchester Art Gallery. By 1945 Lowry had had 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 one wonders to what degree he really craved anything different. As he said himself, ‘Had I not been lonely, none of my work would have happened.’ He deprived himself of many of life’s simple pleasures – living in isolation – and the price he effectively paid to be a great artist was his happiness.
‘Floating Bridge, Southampton’He did not just paint northern scenes, and visited the south coast looking for ships and ferries to paint.
He also painted a few pictures of London, including one of Piccadilly Circus, with his trademark ‘matchstick people’ wearing bowler hats and London fashions (sold recently for £200,000).
By the early 1930s he was exhibiting at the Royal Academy in London. He was awarded an honorary MA at Manchester University in 1945, and Doctor of Letters in 1961, elected to the Royal Academy in 1962, and given freedom of the City of Salford in 1965 – many other honours followed later.
He left Pendlebury in 1948 when the landlord re-possessed the house. He moved 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.” The grave is now in a state of shabby neglect.
During his life Lowry had painted and drawn some 2000-3000 pieces. Harold Wilson had offered him a knighthood and had 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.
There was a long standing friendship between Lowry and Geoffrey Bennett (1902-1991), who were introduced by Lowry’s cousin Grace who worked with Bennett in Lancashire. The Bennetts moved to Cumberland when Geoffrey was made manager of the Westminster Bank in Cleator Moor. Lowry kept in touch with his friends and visited them in Cleator Moor, and later in Carlisle after Geoffrey was made an Angican clergyman in 1962.
‘Westminster Bank, Cleator Moor’, 1951.The bank where Geoffrey Bennett was the manager.
‘The Market Square, Cleator Moor’, 1950.During these visits the two men would produce caricatures for the amusement of the vicar’s son. Bennet was an artist, and both encouraged the work of each other. Whilst in West Cumbria, Lowry painted various scenes, including the church, bank, fish and chip shop and market square in Cleator Moor.
‘Cowles Fish and Chip Shop, Cleator Moor’, 1948.One day in Cleator Moor, Lowry suddenly noticed crowds of people outside Cowles fish and chip shop, opposite the Westminster Bank. He borrowed pastels belonging to Geoffrey’s son and set to work at once. The pastel drawing was sold recently for more than twice the value of the property itself.
Bennett had an impressive collection of artworks, including these West Cumbrian Lowrys, and when he died these were left to the Dean and Chapter of Carlisle Cathedral, who sold them to raise funds to support the maintenance of the Cathedral.
‘Landscape with Figures, Workington’, 1969. The Remains of Jane Pit, at Moss Bay.
On 27 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).
Related Links :
- Wath Brow Church, Cleator Moor
- Jane Pit, Workington
- Wikipedia – L.S. Lowry
- Open Directory – L.S. Lowry
- The Lowry – Salford
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