Lowry and the Industrial Scene

Lawrence Steven Lowry was born in Manchester in 1887 and was an artist exploring the human condition in the way that he knew how. Changing the game of ‘Outsider Artists’ and doing exactly what he intended... putting the industrial North on the map and being exactly himself while doing so. 

Who was L.S Lowry?

Lawrence Steven Lowry was born in Manchester in 1887, the only child of Robert and Elizabeth Lowry. He started drawing at the age of eight. His early training was at the Municipal College of Art, Manchester, where he was taught by the French artist Adolphe Valette. L.S. Lowry viewed the world around him in a serious yet sensitive way.

L.S Lowry was an observer above all, he had strong ties to the industrial world through one of his jobs as a rent collector which he worked as for most of his life, dealing with his sway in the view of the working class. He went from a welcome visitor to a person to be avoided at all costs, however, art maintained to be his driving force of exploration as well as the industrial world. Lowry had an ability to sneak the industrial into nearly all his composites. 

From a pre- teen settling on art as a career plan and attending local art schools for over 10 years, to the man known for his signature half up and half down collar, with a codependent relationship with his mother and apocalyptic visions of the sea. Lowry was exactly himself. An artist exploring the human condition in the way that he knew how. Changing the game of ‘Outsider Artists’ and doing exactly what he intended... putting the industrial North on the map.

  

The ‘Matchstick People’.

In a few marks Lowry was able to create the characters coined over the years as ‘matchstick people’. A take on the working-class body on the streets of Manchester; filled with nostalgia and curiosity. The artist depicted people who were physically affected by their work as their backs were bowed; with what can be imagined as a tired pace, trying to keep up with the machines that were dominating the workplace. Although the characters within Lowry’s paintings are never seen at their destination, there is a clear emotive pang of loneliness within the crowds. An emotion Lowry himself spoke about often.

 

The Industrial.

It is no question that L.S Lowry put the industrial North on the map within the art world, but where did it all come from and why industrial scenes? Well, it was the Acme Spinning Company Mill in Pendlebury that inspired him and started his industrial fascination. Lowry found beauty in harsh realities of industrial Northern life and painted mostly from memory. He created imagined landscapes with 1920’s tinted spectacles, depicting cars and architecture from that era. The industrial influence never was far away for the artist, even when Lowry was covering other topics - he still often maintained the theme of the industrial in the background.

 

Colour and Crowds.

When experiencing any Lowry, whether it be from a computer screen, a book or in person, there is one factor that is plain and clear; the muted colour palette used by the artist. Lowry’s colour palette for his whole career was made up of only five colours which were, flake white, ivory black, yellow ochre, vermilion (red) and Prussian blue. Within this palette Lowry portrayed industrial scenes, sports and events, landscapes, and waterscapes - illustrating vast expanses and crowded scenes. Even though Lowry's palette was a simplistic one, he used colour for a variety of functions including to accentuate a built-up city by framing his composites with dark buildings on both sides of the scene, framing the action or creating uniformity with the clothing of the ‘matchstick men’.

Crowds were also a motif within Lowry’s work that maintained the same behaviour, representing the collective movement of people with the crowds perpetuating a singular focus point. Lowry created a palpable atmosphere of hustle and bustle.

 

The Memory of Lowry.

Looking back at what L.S Lowry created within his life, putting the industrial North on the map whilst maintaining another full-time job as a rent collector and as carer for his mother in her later years, he was able to become a trailblazer for the outsider artist and the working man. Time and appreciation gifted the blue-chip artist with impressive auction results, doubling the estimations and taking figures like £2.65 million at Christie's auction in 2020.


We are incredibly privileged to offer for sale a collection of rare hand signed prints by one of Britain's leading painters, L.S Lowry. All the pieces in this collection are from a small series of prints personally signed by Lowry across his lifetime, coming to Hancock Gallery in September 2021. Sign up to our mailing list below to be the first to know when you can see this collection in person.