Going to Work 1944
27 x 36.2 cm
Sold [November 2012] for £97,250 including premium
Signed and Dated 'LS Lowry 1944' (lower left)
Further Signed, Inscribed and Dated again 'Going to work/LS Lowry 1944/Mather & Platt Ltd.' (verso)
Gifted to anonymous on the occasion of their wedding, 1958
Sale; Christie's, London, 7 June 2001, lot 148
Private Collection, U.K.
J. Sandling & M. Leber, Lowry's City, Lowry Press, Salford, 2001, p.77 (ill.b&w)
In 1942, and as a sign of his growing reputation, Lowry was appointed by the War Artists' Advisory Committee to produce works recording the devastation caused on the home front. The works that were completed form a small and rare body in what was otherwise a prolific artistic career. Lowry's war paintings, as might be expected, are instantly identifiable yet the antithesis of Graham Sutherland and John Piper, his two dominant contemporaries in this field.
Lowry's position as a fire watcher two or three nights a week on top of Manchester department stores such as Debenhams and Lewis's gave him a truly firsthand experience of the destruction reeked by the Luftwaffe. The air raids changed the landscape of his city and removed the familiarity of areas that were known so well. Amongst his most celebrated compositions are Blitzed Site (1942, The Lowry), in which a lonely figure dominates the central composition amongst total wreckage and Saint Augustine's Church (1945, Manchester Art Gallery). Both images fully convey the sense of desolation and loss that is brought about by conflict and reflect the artist's own inner turmoil at a time when he was still coming to terms with the death of his mother.
The finished oil, Going to Work (1943), now in the distinguished collection of the Imperial War Museum, was completed upon request for a view of factory life and the present lot is a study for the same. Depicting the busy Mather and Platt building approximately two miles north-east of the centre of Manchester, the artist and subject matter were perfectly suited. Mather and Platt were an engineering firm, which produced amongst other things high-speed engines, winding gear and pumps. This detailed drawing shows the start of the day with an abundance of workers arriving at the factory either from the two buses illustrated on the right hand side of the composition or the Park railway station nearby. The presence of war is only suggested by the subtle inclusion of two barrage balloons, acting as defence from aircraft attack in the sky. The tower, which was demolished in 1998, is a prominent feature in Going to Work and was also relocated by the artist into his largeIndustrial Landscape (1955, Tate Gallery); a classic imaginary composition that incorporates amalgamations of different areas and buildings with which he has become intimately acquainted.
Going to Work is dated 1944 but as the oil painting was completed in 1943, it is likely the drawing was misdated when the artist returned to it at some point later. Testament to Lowry's skill as a draughtsman and an important wartime record, the present work was clearly highly regarded by the artist who kept it in his piano stool amongst other favourite drawings.
In November 2011 Bonhams achieved the world auction record for a pencil drawing by L.S. Lowry with Swinbury Station achieving £121,250.