Sunday, 7 July 2013

1970 - Figures on a Street

Figures on a Street 1970
29 x 40.5 cm
Sold [November 2006] for £45,600 including premium
Signed and Dated 'L S Lowry 1970.' (lower right)

Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 12 October 1988, lot 282, where purchased by the former owner

In the latter stage of his career, Lowry’s drawing became increasingly economical. Single figure compositions rather than crowded Manchester scenes predominate, while stylistically these sketches lean towards simplified line drawing rather then shading. In this sense, Figures on a Street dating to 1970 stands out. Here, the street is busy and teeming with people, much like the earlier Figures in a Street (Bonhams, London, 11 July 2006, £88,000). The frieze-like composition of the present work reflects the daily grind of the figures it represents and draws the eye along from right to left. Yet they are animated and wholly individual in their seemingly banal pursuits. Figures trudge along a street, hands shoved in pockets and caps pulled down but in doing so they are imbued with dignity and gravitas. Lowry was very much a 'man of the people' and held the utmost respect for his subject. In the present example, he has employed shading and the tonal graduation, that is so often absent from this period of his oeuvre. He would often intentionally smudge the works using his thumb and fingers and in doing so reveal to the viewer a sense of the industrial atmosphere he found so inspiring.

Drawing was as important to Lowry as painting, if not more so, the majority of his prolific output being works on paper. This owes a debt to his extended study at both Manchester College of Art and Salford School of Art, where the emphasis of formal training was, as always, on proficient draughtsmanship. Thus, Lowry began his career with the lowly pencil and continued on in this vein until his death in 1976. Figures on a Street exhibits all the qualities for which Lowry's work is known and loved and is a fine example of his late drawing.

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