Industrial Landscape 1958
Oil on Canvas
50.8 x 61 cm
Sold [June 2007] for £602,400 including premium
Signed and Dated 'L S LOWRY 1958.' (lower left)
with The Lefevre Gallery, London, 1959, where purchased by the present owner's husband
Thence by descent
Lowry is original, and even revolutionary in his vision. No one else to my knowledge has been so sensitively aware of the poetry of the English industrial landscape (Sir Herbert Read)
It is for his paintings of the industrialised north that Lowry is best known, and it is easy to see, through paintings such asIndustrial Landscape, how the artist gained a unique place in the conscience of British collectors. Everything in the painting is handled with the ease and confidence of an artist who is working to the very best of his ability. It has been well documented how Lowrys urban paintings were often fantastical constructions, taking various elements of a city, such as factories, streets, bridges, chimneys, and bringing them together on canvas to produce a purely fictional and idealised view. Such paintings could only be made given an in depth knowledge of the city and its fabric, and for Lowry, the city that was his source of inspiration was that of his birthplace Manchester. As a young man and through his job as a debt-collector, Lowry would frequently wander through the streets of the city observing the life brimming within it. In 1909 Lowrys family moved to the suburb of Pendlebury and it was soon after this move that Lowry first became interested in painting the industrial world around him. The visual stimuli of Manchester and its environs provided Lowry with an enormous repository from which to compose his visions of what was a quickly metamorphosing world.
With Industrial Landscape Lowry has created a painting that really is a celebration of the busy metropolis as experienced in the mid 20th Century. The canvas itself is visually teeming with life. There is so much information in the painting, it is difficult to absorb it all at once. Church spires appear in the distance alongside factories and their chimneys, which belt out plumes of smoke. In the foreground figures huddle around and bustle across the street from one place to the next. These anonymous figures seem oblivious to the all-seeing eye of the artist and spectator. Mothers push prams, children play; darkly clothed figures walk purposefully and aimlessly alike. The detail continues to the very edges of the composition, where buildings are cropped and steam trains only partly visible as their forms continue beyond the confines of the canvas. The painting is full to bursting with detail and it is a testament to Lowrys skill as an artist that he has managed to contain his vision in such an agreeable and pleasing form. As one critic put it, Lowry made beauty out of the ugliness of mean streets. Lowry eloquently orders the space of his composition in order to give a sense of the scale of the subject of his work. By receding the detail and colour of his subject from foreground to background, Lowry eloquently transmits a feeling of sheer vastness to the viewer.
Lowry says so much with so little. Using a limited palette of just five colours flake white, vermilion, Prussian blue, ivory, black and ochre, he is able to evoke the buzzing atmosphere of a thriving metropolis. Ironically, in reality, the reverse was actually the case. By the late 1950s, when the present work was painted, the rapid expansion and modernisation of northern towns such as Manchester and Salford was already waning. In this context, it is easy to see thatIndustrial Landscape is a magnificent example of Lowry at his finest.