Thursday, 18 July 2013

1947 - Factories, Lancashire

Factories, Lancashire 1947
Oil on Canvas
20 x 24 in. (50.8 x 61 cm.)
Sold [June 2007] for £1,128,800 (Christies, London, King Street)
Signed and Dated 'L.S. Lowry 1947' (lower right)

Provenance
with Lefevre Gallery, London.
with Crane Kalman, London, October 1983.

Exhibited
London, Lefevre Gallery, Paintings by Barbara Hepworth; paintings by L.S. Lowry, April 1948, no. 5
Paris, Musée des Beaux Arts, 48 Salon, 1950, catalogue not traced.
London, Lefevre Gallery, L.S. Lowry, March 1951, no. 39.

Painted in 1947, the present work is a composite industrial landscape in which Lowry has combined different elements together to create an extensive urban scene, filled with figures and houses against a background of factories with trademark smoking chimneys. One of the buildings included in the background is based on the Acme Spinning Mill, opened in 1905, which Lowry claimed was the original reason he became interested in the industrial scene.

One day, when Lowry had missed a train from Pendlebury the mill caught his attention:'... as I got to the top of the station steps I saw the Acme Spinning Company's mill, the huge black framework of rows of yellow-lit windows stood up against the sad, damp-charged afternoon sky. The mill was turning out hundreds of little pinched, black figures, heads bent down, as though to offer the smallest surface to the swirling particles of sodden grit, were hurrying across the asphalt, along the mean streets with the inexplicable derelict gaps in the rows of houses, past the telegraph poles, homewards to high tea or pubwards, away from the mill and without a backward glace. I watched this scene - which I'd looked at many times without seeing - with rapture' (see J. Sandling and M. Leber (eds.), Lowry's City: A Painter and his Locale, Salford, 2000, p. 17).

The foreground of Factories, Lancashire is predominately a street scene filled with figures, seemingly more occupied with domestic business than trudging to and from their work place. The elevated viewpoint of the painting does, however, give the figures a diminutive feel and Lowry shows them living their lives within the context of the industrial buildings and smoking chimneys that dominate the background of the painting.

Typical of Lowry's work the figures and buildings are painted over an initial ground of flake white paint. Lowry commented, 'When I started painting industrial scenes fifty years ago I painted them very dark. But when I showed them to Bernard Taylor, who was then art critic of the Manchester Guardian, he said: 'Now put them up against the wall', and of course they both looked equally black. I was very cross with him. Then I started painting crowds against a practically white ground, and he said, 'That's right, and you've lost nothing in quality'. And I had to agree with him' (see M. Leber and J. Sandling (eds.), exhibition catalogue, L.S. Lowry, Salford Art Gallery, 1987, pp. 75-6).

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