Thursday, 11 July 2013

1955 - Large Figure Group

Large Figure Group 1955
Pencil and Charcoal
55 by 76 cm
Signed and Dated 1955

Acquired directly from Rev. Geoffrey S. Bennett by the previous owner
Private Collection

In Large Figure Group humanity confronts the viewer in all its hilarity and ungainliness. Fourteen awkward figures, from the beady-eyed to the cross-eyed, from the wizened to the sprightly, and from the lanky to the squat, are arranged into two fairly balanced rows. Despite the implied orderliness of this frieze-like composition, Lowry’s drawing is abuzz with movement - some men appear to be lurching onto the page while others are slouching off the scene; one old man trembles with trepidation while another man bursts with irritation. Each character is unique in their grotesqueness and independent in action and yet there is an undeniable sense of cohesiveness, as if mankind’s multitude of imperfections were also our single most unifying force.

Each foible and flaw is captured with velvety, elegant lines and is a testament to Lowry’s mastery of pencil and charcoal. Texture, shade, and depth are implied with smudges and highlights, not through shadow or setting. The only backdrop for Lowry’s band of motley figures is the creamy page and here, as in the majority of his drawings, the white space is as important as the rich, smoky lines and hazy shading. Lowry has been praised for creating an orchestra with his pencil and in Large Figure Group the viewer is presented with an exemplary toccata, displaying his virtuosity in gently mocking life’s crudeness and absurdity.

Lowry was particularly fascinated with the inherent sadness and loneliness of human life and often reflected on this in his drawings with cool detachment. Large Figure Group, sketched in 1955, the year Lowry became an associate of the Royal Academy, captures the artist at the height of his artistic prowess and curiosity with the human condition.

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