Friday, 19 July 2013

1954 - Whitehaven

Whitehaven 1954
Oil on Canvas 
20 x 30 in. (50.8 x 76.2 cm.) 
Sold [08 June 2007] for £180,000 (Christie's,London, King Street)
Signed and Dated 'L.S. Lowry 1954' (lower right)

Provenance
with Crane Kalman, London.
J. Millburn, December 1988.
with Crane Kalman, London. 

Exhibited
probably London, Lefevre Gallery, L.S. Lowry, March - April 1956, no. 26, as 'Near Whitehaven'.
probably London, Royal Academy, L.S. Lowry R.A. 1887-1976, September - November 1976, no. 207, as 'Near Whitehaven'. 

In this view of Whitehaven, Lowry has chosen to address the industrial element of the town, juxtaposing the factory chimneys with the coast. The Georgian town of Whitehaven was built around the shipping and mining industries, and some of the coal mines extended several miles beneath the sea bed.

To heighten the contrast between the natural and the man-made, Lowry has used visual distinctions inWhitehaven. The factory chimneys are tall and thin, strong verticals that are echoed in the verticals of the flag-pole to the right and in the houses and church in the background. Lowry also paints the sea wall with strong black outlines, placing emphasis on the straight line of the man-made constructions. This contrasts with the loose and thick brush-strokes that he uses to describe the sea and the heavy waves. It is as if the sea cannot be contained through the confines of paint. He also makes a distinction between the sweeping curve of the coast line and the hard right-angles of the industrial buildings.

The palette in Whitehaven is very subdued, and the black and white tones are interspersed only occasionally with red, including in the signature and date. The sea is treated with heavy black sweeps of the brush, suggesting rising and falling waves, and brings to mind Lowry's words, 'It's the Battle of Life - the turbulence of the sea - and life's pretty turbulent isn't it? I am very fond of the sea, of course, I have been fond of the sea all my life: how wonderful it is, yet how horrible it is. But I often think ... what if it suddenly changed its mind and didn't turn the tide? And came straight on? If it didn't stop and came on and on and on and on ... that would be the end of it all' (see J. Spalding, exhibition catalogue, Lowry, Middlesbrough, Cleveland Art Gallery, 1987, p. 61).

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