Man Walking 1962
Oil On Board
Signed and Dated 1962, also signed on the reverse.
Monty Bloom Esq
Sale, Christie's London, 11th May 1973, lot 112
His sale, Sotheby's London, 1st December 1999, lot 41
Acquired by the present owners in early 2000
Sheffield, Graves Art Gallery, L. S. Lowry, A.R.A.: An Exhibition of Paintings, Watercolours and Drawings, 15th September - 14th October 1962, cat. no.95B, lent by the Artist (as Man Out for a Walk);
Newcastle Upon Tyne, Stone Gallery, The Later Paintings of L.S. Lowry from the Monty Bloom Collection, 23rd October - 14th November 1964, cat. no.25 (as Man Out Walking);
Southport, Atkinson Art Gallery, The Bloom Collection, 1967;
London, Crane Kalman Gallery, The Loneliness of L.S. Lowry, 7th - 30th November 1968, cat. no. 20 ( as Man Out Walking) (probably);
London, Hamet Gallery, L.S. Lowry, 21st September - 21st October 1972, cat. no.35, illustrated (as Man Out Walking).
Shelley Rhode, L. S. Lowry: a Biography, Lowry Press, Manchester, 1999, illustrated p.265;
Meet Mr Lowry, documentary film produced by Mischa Scorer and commissioned by The Lowry,1999;
When Piers Met Andrew Lloyd Webber, documentary film produced by ITV Press, 9th April 2011.
In 1961, Lowry had an exhibition of his work at the Lefevre Gallery. There was nothing unusual in this; Lowry had been showing his work there regularly since 1939. However, this time the exhibition sold out before it opened. Ignored for years, his reputation had risen slowly through the 1940s and 1950s and his appeal to collectors had grown. He was by now an R.A. and, unknown to virtually everyone, had turned down both an O.B.E and a C.B.E. Yet much of his popularity was built on his success with the industrial scene, the 'typical' Lowry, and as has happened for so many artists, he came to resent this perception of his work and its extent: 'In London all they want now are pictures with little figures on them' (The Artist, quoted in Shelly Rohde, A Private View of L.S.Lowry, Collins, London 1979, p.240).
Whilst the industrial landscape had been at the heart of Lowry's art through the years of obscurity and struggle, its centrality had waned in his own mind. By the time he left Pendlebury in 1948 he had already begun to paint images where the place was of less and less importance, the people being the centre of his attention. By 1952 and his retirement from the Pall Mall Property Company, his industrial landscapes were becoming ever more idealised, either as a standard mill/chimney/street compositional form, or the huge sweeping composite views of industrial panoramas. His relationship to the industrial landscape and his need to paint it were shifting.
Yet his audience still wanted the industrial vision. Lowry seems to have worried that the loss of the meaning of the subject to him would be reflected in the paintings; but it was not to be, hence the sell-out show in 1961 and his continued popularity. But he did know that he wanted to produce something else. He wanted to paint people, figures he had seen, met, observed. People whose lives were not easy, people burdened by cares, misfortune, disability. He was at pains to ensure that no-one should think he was laughing at these souls, merely hoping to capture something that spoke to him, perhaps an echo of his own perceived 'otherness', his place outside the normal lives he saw many of his friends living. His belief was that no-one else would appreciate this other vision.
Lowry's meeting with Monty Bloom was thus perhaps one of the more fortuitous of his life. Bloom had initially sought to commission an industrial landscape, but on visiting the artist found himself distracted by the figure paintings he saw. Lowry laid out about twelve, Bloom picked six and a price was agreed. By the standard of his gallery prices, the £90 Lowry asked was minute, but that wasn't the point. He had found someone who saw in these paintings his particular vision. Bloom's buying continued, to the point where his wife forbade any more pictures entering the house and he had to keep them in the boot of his car. His compulsion to buy these Lowry paintings was only equalled by the artist's compulsion to paint them, and he was to build a formidable collection.
Acquired by Bloom around 1963, Man Walking is a perfect example of exactly the kind of image that Lowry was now creating. There is a backdrop, but is it just that, devoid of detail and colour. It is the figure before us who is the focus. He walks along the street, quite happy to be thinking of something entirely apart from the here and now. This thought amuses him, and puts a spring in his step. He manages to be sprightly yet ungainly, determined yet aimless. Questioned about these paintings by his long-standing friend Hugh Maitland, Lowry suggested that he felt that he had to bring these figures, who he believed were either marginalised or simply ignored, to a place where they would be acknowledged, and in Man Walking he has done this. There is no judgement here, just recognition of this unknown man without which he would have faded from memory.