Lowry’s Legacy: immortalising our industrial past

Lawrence Steven Lowry was an only child, born in Manchester in 1887. Throughout his 70 year career, he was preoccupied with the industrial north, with Manchester and with the working class. 

It’s impossible to talk about industrial art without talking about trailblazer L.S. Lowry, “Britain’s preeminent painter of the industrial city.”

Lawrence Steven Lowry was an only child, born in Manchester in 1887. Throughout his 70 year career, he was preoccupied with the industrial north, with Manchester and with the working class. 

Inspired by the man-made world following on from the industrial revolution in the north of England, Lowry portrayed the realities of industrial Northern life with a muted colour palette and simple ‘matchstick’ figures. The industrial landscape in his paintings tended to take priority over the people within it; Lowry said “The buildings always come before the figures.”

The specific meets the universal

As a rent collector, Lowry spent his days walking around industrial Manchester, with his keen artist’s eye always observing his surroundings and the people there. 

He usually painted from memory, and many of his paintings were composite of different views and buildings from different areas. While still portraying a strong sense of its Northern English place, this lends a universality to his work––it could come from any industrial city. 

Lowry was unconcerned with modernity, and both his landscapes and the figures within them seemed sometimes to come from different eras. He said “I simply paint the people as I see them,” and this temporal universality could be another reason that his paintings have been so enduringly popular. 

“I saw in those desolate buildings an image of myself.”

Many of Lowry’s paintings, even and perhaps especially those featuring crowds, portray the deep loneliness he felt until his death. Perhaps because of his outsider perspective, he is often separated from what and who he’s portraying, with a fence or wall at the front of many paintings. 

He was always an outsider: a constant disappointment to the mother he cared for until the end of her life, an autistic man who struggled to fit into society, and an artist who was disparaged by the London elite. 

Despite all the difficulties in his life, Lowry blazed a trail for outsider art and art focussed on the working man, while remaining steadfastly himself: “I’ve no wish to change.”

We’re delighted to have expanded our signature collection with a variety of pieces from L.S. Lowry. Experience these pieces in person at our gallery, we’re open 10am - 5pm Tuesday to Saturday