Review: The Loneliness of Lowry

Going to an exhibition on The Loneliness of Lowry when you have just split up with your partner is probably not on your friends’ list of top recovery techniques. Still, I went, and I’m glad I did – because, despite what its curators might suggest, this collection stands as a homage to those going solo.

Laurence Stephen Lowry, most famous for painting industrial scenes from the early twentieth century, has previously been stereotyped as a fairly simplistic artist who captured cheery street scenes in Salford. He was a painter and rent collector who achieved notoriety with child-like images of matchstick people, picked out in panes of red and yellow and blue.

LS Lowry: A Procession

There was none of that here though. At this month’s Abbot Hall Art Gallery exhibition, in Kendal, the works picked out tell the tale of Lowry alone in the Lake District. The detached atmosphere of his work, depicting empty landscapes, bare seas and soundless rooms suggest he didn’t just spend a lot of time alone, he also used this special space as his own, personal subject.

LS Lowry: The Empty House

Lowry’s wildernesses are not without an artist’s love. The time and patience given to these quiet northern landscapes reveal something of a fondness for a reclusive existence. His pared down oil paintings focus on formal characteristics of light and tone, creating odd illusions in depth and scale that pull you into his empty worlds – or seem to push you back from them, leaving you feeling like you are peering inside.

The Lonely House and the Empty House show the occasional people but there is no flamboyant style of modern life painter or Renaissance story-teller in Lowry’s depictions. People are too far away to have expressions captured or physiques judged – they are merely neat flourishes of colour to populate the plain architecture of Lowry’s art, at a safe distance.

Lowry: The Derelict House

I don’t know if it is fair for critics to say Lowry was entirely lonely – or if he was entirely happy with his predicament. One of the main problems of this exhibition seems to be that it tries to define a whole person and their art career with a big fat Lonely stamp and, as an audience you’re tempted either to agree or disagree. I imagine Lowry got depressed, but I bet he also ate ice cream on a summer’s day by the beach and laughed at the donkeys and the chubby, burnt British people.

Maybe the best I can say is that I’ve seen the work inspired by his winderness years and it gave me reason to be cheerful.

The exhibition is currently on display at Abbot Hall until October 30 after which a pared down version will go on show at the Crane Kalman Gallery in London from November 18 to December 18.

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7 Responses to “Review: The Loneliness of Lowry”

  1. blackandwhiteandthings Says:

    I wonder if you think James Ensor fits into this mode of painting. His works are action paintings but they are also, through and through, meditations on solitude,.

    My favorite works of art are concerned with solitude and action, and the weird interplay between those two phenomena–consider, solitude and inaction: a straight line to solipsism. Reconfigured this way Bolano is the way and the truth and the life.

  2. I did a project on Lowry at school because his name is Lawrence Steven Lowry and my name is Steven Lawrence. I think I got a tick plus for it.

  3. Thank you for this – I’ve recently bought ‘A Procession’, own this artwork; or do I? Naturally, I’m interested to find it included in your blog, would very much appreciate any information that you may have. My ‘original’ doesn’t look as if its been out of its frame for many years but does not show the more extreme edges clearly seen in your image. My questions are: Was ‘A Procession’ at the exhibition you refer to, and where did you source the picture included in your blog, e.g. an old or recent catalogue perhaps?

    • Hi Steve,
      In all honesty, I can’t remember where this image has come from. I imagine it was online, as I was merely seeking to illustrate the Lowry image I was refering too. I’m sure yours will be the real version though – and congratulations, a Lowry in your house is pretty fantastic. I’m jealous. Wil you put it above the fireplace? x

      • Thanks, it transpired to be a crude attempt to defraud… money returned, lesson learnt. Warning to all, be aware!

  4. Great post, I love LS Lowry, he saw the beauty in Salford and Bolton, therefore the man is a genius. I think the artist can be an outsider, also writers, because he/she stands back from the crowd and interogates rather than goes along. I often go into Manchester for a few hours alone with a sketch pad and notebook, it’s one of my favourite things, but people often find it inconceivable, they need purpose and speed to stop them feeling alone, whereas I want to avoid purpose and speed.

  5. anonymous Says:

    lowrys work is amazingly detailed. he liked to paint pictures of very detailed cities with people. i am doing this picture for my art work and hopefully its just as good as the real one

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