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Looking at 2024 with Lowry

We are hugely excited to offer an original oil painting by L S Lowry as a headline lot in our first Selections auction of 2024 on 30th April

Our auction pedigree with Laurence Stephen Lowry (1887 - 1976) is extensive. We have sold many limited edition prints over the years and as recently as 2019 a diminutive oil hit a chord with bidders when it sold for £65,000. That was a painting that Sotheby's had valued at £40,000 for the purpose of probate, so we were very pleased with its performance.

The Lowry oil on this occasion, 'Man Looking at Something' is similar in size, it is being offered at a very realistic estimate. and has impeccable provenance - purchased by the present owner's family from Tib Lane Gallery in Manchester.

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Lowry is of course one of the most famous names in British art and certainly the most famous artist to capture the industrial North of England. His work is as identifiable as any other British artist that I can think of.

When we think of Lowry paintings, we think of industrial landscapes encapsulating looming mills, smoking factories and massed ranks of figures, moving in all directions, with their heads bowed and relentlessly going about their way. It is almost although the artist is observing how society works wholly, he is like a young lad observing a colony of ants from above. His figures are not detailed and famously they are sometimes referred to as ‘matchstick’, but one can still see the character of these busy humans; through a subtle application of paint there are still wonderful characters, humour, sentiment and mood in his figures. This is efficiently captured through subtle variants in the shape of their bodies, mothers with their babies, workers with carts, children with sticks.

He was a very skilled taught draughtsman and portrait artist; his early life-drawing studies occasionally come on the market. But the genius of Lowry is that his trained eye evolved into something profoundly different to anything that preceded. There have been many artists who have been influenced by Lowry such as our very own Swansea boy Jack Jones as well as a stable of Northern English painters, such as John Thompson, Norman Cornish and Harold Riley. However, to identify an artist to whom Lowry may have been strongly influenced in style, theme and subject-matter is a challenge.
Lowry himself referred to Adolphe Valette, the French impressionist as his greatest influence. Valette taught Lowry at Salford School of Art and was a painter of gritty industrial scenes too. However, there is a giant departure in style from Valette’s impressionist work to Lowry’s panoramic studies of urban life. We sold a Valette oil painting this April (shown below) and you will see there are few factors in which we can identify as being like a work by Lowry.

One of the reasons for Lowry’s enduring popularity is that his paintings concern the ordinary citizen and working communities we can identify with. His market has risen sharply since his death in 1976 and since then it has been a period in British history of upward mobility of the classes. There has too been a gentrification of the urban industrial landscape in many towns - the mills and factories refitted to fashionable studios for working and living. Hanging a Lowry on one’s wall is a sure sign of having elevated from one’s working class roots. This theory exemplified by the Professional Football Association’s acquisition of Lowry’s ‘Going to the Match’ for £2.9 million. Football was once a sport for low paid amateurs and watched by the masses paying shillings at the turnstiles. Times have changed - the ‘people’s game’ has gone corporate and is splashing out on British record signings in art-form. The auction record for a Lowry painting now stands at £5.6m.

Prior to the 1960s, during which decade Man Looking at Something was painted, L.S. Lowry had enjoyed commercial success with his famous industrial northern landscapes. However, the artist's interests began to change and his powerful panoramas of the working north that had occupied so much of his output gave way to more intimate observations of the people who had populated them at a distance. The change in output a result of the societal changes in Britain as the factories, mills, and terraces began to disappear from the landscape..

'Man Looking at Something' shows a man with his hands in the pocket of his overcoat, wearing sturdy boots fitted and a red scarf around his neck. The figure appears to have stopped to stare at something which is out of the picture, it is almost as though time itself has stopped for artist and viewer.

L S Lowry

'Man Looking at Something'

£50,000 - 70,000

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Viewing of the Lowry can be arranged from January 2024 at our salerooms in Cardiff, Colwyn Bay or Carmarthen. Please contact for further details.

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