L. S. Lowry

V.E. Day Celebration

 

Lowry is an artist who doesn’t seem to be very well known in the United States, but in the United Kingdom he is practically a household word. Many people encountering his work for the first time take him to be a folk artist, but in fact he studied art seriously for years, and the style on which he settled and for which he is best known came from a conscious artistic urge. In UK art circles the mention of “Matchstick Men” is pretty much reserved for Lowry, and although he painted just about every kind of scene over the years, he is remembered primarily for street and industrial scenes.

 

 

He is an odd mixture of closed artist and gregarious friend. Much is made of his supposed loneliness; he never married and is noted to have said at the age of 88 that he “had never known a woman.” However, he was also known to be a prodigious liar, not for self-aggrandizement or to deceive, but rather in an old fashioned, tall tale sense of fun. His friendships were, in fact, many and he socialized freely with the people who mattered to him. But he did not care for strangers, and he could not stand fans. He supposedly kept a packed suitcase at his front door so that should some stranger pop by unannounced, he could pretend to be on his way to the train station. (Caution: this may also be one of his lies. Ain’t art history fun?)

 

The Cripples

 

He worked until retirement primarily as a rent collector, but enjoyed considerable success as an artist in his lifetime. By the time of his death in 1976 he could look back in satisfaction on a career that was well received by both the general public and the artistic elite. He enjoyed that enviable position of having nothing much to prove to anyone at all.

 

A Procession

 

A large print of the painting, A Procession, hangs on my living room wall. The parade in the background is in support of union action, whether organizing or striking, I do not know. Part of the charm of his work is how often you can discover pieces of political commentary hiding in unlikely places. In our modern time of slash and burn rhetoric it is easy to forget that there are subtle ways to get a point across as well. Equally, Lowry was not afraid to be blunt. That old folk saying, “Don’t piss on my boot and try to tell me it’s a rainstorm” is just another way of saying stop focusing on the label and pay attention to the thing itself.

And watch out for liars.

 

A City’s Pride

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5 Responses to L. S. Lowry

  1. How appropriate during election season. I especially like A Procession, the colors draw me in. Oh and I’m reading a book on Gordon Conway that you had mentioned earlier. What a life.

    • foxpudding says:

      Thanks for catching that. England is class conscious in a way the US has never really been, and I think his style is a comment on that system. Glad you found the Conway. I love that people like her can be rediscovered. She’s part of who we are now and it would be a shame to have her be forgotten.

  2. Pat Snyder says:

    I think if I saw these in a book, I’d probably just keep turning the pages. I don’t dislike them but they arouse no interest or emotion. But then, as I’ve said, my response to painting is emotional. I am interested in the intellectual statements but in this case, it is an academic interest.

    • foxpudding says:

      It is almost always worth pondering why an artist who is quite capable of painting in the classical, beautiful tradition chooses instead to work in the abstract, or in this case with an almost child-like style. His deceptively simple figures have something to say about ordinary people’s place in the scheme of things. But, no, artists like this are never to everybody’s taste. And I think that’s a good thing. If everybody likes you, you aren’t making near enough trouble.

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