"Lowry and the Painting of Modern Life"

By Davies, Christie | New Criterion, September 2013 | Go to article overview

"Lowry and the Painting of Modern Life"


Davies, Christie, New Criterion


"Lowry and the Painting of Modern Life"

Tate Britain, London.

June 26-October 20, 2013

L. S. Lowry (1887-1976) was the leading painter of old industrial Britain, of the crowded streets of Lancashire cotton towns dominated by factory chimneys and oblong, chunky mills. Now that the industrial North of England and the mining and steel towns of South Wales, which he also painted, have subsided into obsolescence and Rust Belt--decay, it can hardly be said that these are portrayals of modern life. But file scenes in his pictures were very modern when he painted them; such is the speed of change of modernity.

Lowry's work was immensely popular with ordinary folk in Britain who hung reproductions of his paintings on the walls of their homes. Lowry, who worked for forty-two years as a local rent collector, painted what he knew and what they knew. Fashionable metropolitan curators and artists rarely visited, let alone painted, the industrial areas--they saw them as grim, as regional, as unfit subjects for art. They never visited the provincial museums where much of Lowry's work was on display. They were condescending when the socialistic Prime Minister Harold Wilson, who had a Lancashire constituency and on suitable occasions a Yorkshire accent, hung a Lowry on the main wall of his office and used one as a Christmas card. It was part of his shaky fake attempt to seem a gritty man of the people. Scorn met the appearance of one of Lowry's most popular paintings, Coming out of School (1929), on a high denomination British postage stamp in 1968. In Paris Lowry was taken seriously, but his critics in England falsely suggested that he was self-taught, even though he had studied at three different art schools in the North of England and had been instructed by Pierre Adolphe Valette, a French Impressionist. Some of the less perceptive British critics are still claiming that his reputation seriously declined in the years after his death and call him a bad artist. This excellent exhibition shows how very, very wrong they all are.

The men and women in the crowded streets of Lowry's towns are stick-like figures, almost as if children had drawn them, but what is wrong with that? In their very different ways, Joan Miro and Paul Klee knew full well the value of a child-like style. When groups of school children are taken to the Lowry Museum in his home town of Salford, they immediately understand his work, much as children in Berne, Switzerland do when brought to the Zentrum Patti Klee.

Lowry carefully arranged his stick-like figures in blocks, and these blocks capture a social reality--that of people who lived a mass existence. In this sense, they were truly "the masses" In Coming Home from the Mill (1928) and Returning from Work (1929), we see the people streaming home or tiredly trudging back at the end of a long shift. In Going to the Match (1953), the crowd is heading purposefully towards the terraces of the stadium where a soccer match will soon begin. Lowry was a keen fan of the game. In Football Match (1949), the crowd clusters like ants around the implied perimeter of an unfenced football pitch. A rectangle of people surrounds a rectangle of open ground and they in turn are hemmed in by both the cotton mills where they work and the lines of terrace houses where they live. All these pictures are a reminder of an era when Britain had a large, orderly, disciplined working class. Lowry painted the modern life of the recent past, a modernity that has become history.

There are often interesting and amusing things happening within Lowry's more cheerful and colorful crowds who are enjoying a holiday, as in V. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

"Lowry and the Painting of Modern Life"
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.