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22 May 2021 - 1 September 2022

The Lowry, Salford


L.S. Lowry’s work has a unique place in twentieth-century British art. His distinctive vision combined views of the industrial landscape, peopled with his idiosyncratic figures, alongside vast empty landscapes and seascapes that reflected his own personal state of mind. These set him apart from the mainstream, but he is nevertheless in the tradition of other English visionary artists such as William Blake and Stanley Spencer.

Lowry did not identify many of his portraits by name, but inscribed the back of this canvas: ‘The Artist aged 51’, which means it was painted in late 1938 or 1939. By this time, he had been caring for his bedridden mother for six years – as well as working full time as a rent collector, and painting in what little spare time remained. His mother was dying, and the evident grief and exhaustion can be read in Lowry’s features.

Following her death, Lowry found significant success, and the pressure to keep painting more of his industrial landscapes became intense. But alongside these, he started painting a series of seascapes – sometimes completely empty, or with a single ship or structure in the middle of them. He spoke honestly and openly about his feelings of depression and loneliness. Outside of a loose group of friends, he appears never to have had a relationship with anyone, male or female, in his lifetime.


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