Thursday, 11 July 2013

1960 - Out For A Walk

Out For A Walk 1960
Oil On Canvas
60 x 30.5 cm
Signed and Dated 1960

Private Collection
Sale, Sotheby’s London, 23rd May 1969, lot 137, where acquired by J. Baskett 
Private Collection
Sale, Sotheby’s London, 18th July 1973, lot 161, where acquired by Mr David Hughes 
Henry Donn, Manchester, where acquired by the present owner in 1976 as Three Women and a Dog

A heightened focus on the single figure, or a small group of figures, characterised Lowry's work of the 1960s, which moved away from the more complex patterns of people and townscapes of his earlier years. The works he produced from this period are strikingly sparse in comparison, with details reduced to a minimum and set in an expanse of whiteness.

The three women in the present work are a stylized vision, forming a simple, recessive outline. Only the railings and bare trees provide a clue to their location in the world. In the narrow, vertical format of the canvas, we are offered a fleeting snapshot of these women, a glance from one before they pass by out of sight. It is Lowry's skill as an artist that such a seemingly simple composition retains such force. Works such as this reveal Lowry's unique outlook on the human condition. A particular strand that runs through his observations of small units of figures is a loss of communication. Even in seeming togetherness, Lowry's underlying viewpoint is essentially one of isolation, which appears across his work, such as Short Time, Family Discord (1936, Private Collection) and Father and Sons (1950, Private Collection). It is a theme that resurfaced with renewed intensity from the 1960s for the ageing artist. In Three Women and a Dog the shawled heads, masked features and lack of interaction accentuate this outlook and the bleak setting and monochromatic palette do little to revive optimism.

Lowry depicted a cast of characters in his paintings but those that appealed strongest were those with struggles in life – physical deformity, ugliness, poverty. Their appearance in even his most densely populated works heightens their separation – a reality to Lowry and a belief that stemmed from his own solitary existence. It is this sense of detachment however, which allows Lowry to paint these figures from an observational viewpoint, not one that criticizes or sentimentalises. For this very reason, Lowry's works are all the more poignant, being not undermined by any sense of trivialisation.

This viewpoint was not to the exclusion of any emotion however, with his paintings embracing a great range of feelings, especially his particular brand of humour. As an observer, Lowry was only too aware of the idiosyncrasies of human existence and often added a note to his paintings to mock their seriousness. In the present work, the touch of the dog certainly adds a playful element.

Lowry's direction as an artist was singular and determined, and it was grounded in his daily life. Only then did he believe his work could be meaningful and Three Women and a Dog typifies how Lowry played out the drama of these everyday experiences on the canvas.

There is a letter of authentication from Mervyn Levy, 15th April 1982, attached to the reverse of the present work.

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