Thursday, 11 July 2013

1962 - Figures With Church and Bollards

Figures With Church and Bollards 1962
Oil on Board
30.5 x 27 cm
Signed and Dated 1962

Acquired directly from the Artist by Joseph Fitton in the 1960s
His sale, Sotheby's London, 10th June 1998, lot 54
Richard Green, London, where acquired by the present owner circa June 2000

London, Royal Academy of Arts, L.S. Lowry R.A., 1887-1976, 4th September - 14th November 1976, cat. no.278;
London, Richard Green, L.S. Lowry, 1887-1976, April 2000, cat. no.12, illustrated.

Best known for his bustling depictions of the industrialised north, with factory chimneys looming over rushing passers-by, Lowry was also intrigued by the quieter aspects of the urban environment, depicting unhurried scenes reminiscent of a Sunday afternoon. In Figures with Church and Bollards we get a sense of this laid-back tranquility; the subjects assuming a leisurely pace with prams and dogs, drawn together not under the bellowing smoke that took up most of their working week, but under the watchful eye of the church spire, an architectural marker used in several compositions of this period.

The present work displays clearly the bold and adept technical style that Lowry had, by the early 1960s, become widely regarded for. Our eye is drawn through the busy street scene, past figures dragging children and on to the van disappearing over the horizon, aided by the continued use of his trademark flake white ground throughout. It is this thickly impastoed and heavily encrusted white surface that dominates much of the composition, and Lowry’s application of the buttery and un-thinned oil is aided further by his bold incising lines, digging downwards into the board to give the scene a real sense of architectural depth. As the artist intended, the white has grubbied over time capturing the smog and dirt that Lowry knew and worked within. Whilst favouring a canvas support for his larger compositions, Lowry typically preferred board or panel supports for his smaller, intimate works, reminiscent perhaps of packed peasant scenes of the Flemish master Pieter Bruegel the Elder.

In Figures with Church and Bollards we are met with a delicate and carefully composed scene by an artist drawing towards the last decade of a career that captured a part of Britain in a way no other had done. It is not only a source of social documentary, capturing those that he lived and worked amongst, but also a delicate and carefully considered ode to the urban industrialised settings that had formed the backbone and subsequent success of much of his oeuvre.

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