Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Rare Scottish Lowry Painting Sells

A rare painting of a Scottish scene of Thurso by LS Lowry sold last night at auction for £842,000.  It's called Street Musicians at Shore Street, and shows his characteristic stick figures in the Caithness town.

Read more about the sale of the painting  HERE.

The picture was, however, not painted on location, but in Manchester in 1938, although Lowry had visited Thurso in the very north of Scotland several years earlier.  Which shows an interesting methodology in the manner of producing his work.  Instead of painting in situ, Lowry travelled around and made sketches, completing the work later using this reference material and notes that he'd made mentally.

Here's a link to the AUCTION CATALOGUE NOTES, which shows a photograph of the actual Thurso street, with its strange castellated building on the left, and also Lowry's original sketch, showing the empty unpopulated street.  The figures which make the scene teem with life were added from memory when it was painted years later in Manchester.

Interestingly, Lowry was appointed as an official artist at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1952.   The mind boggles...however, here's the finished result.

L S Lowry, The Procession passing the Queen Victoria Memorial, Coronation
© Queen's Printer and Controller of HMSO. Government Art Collection

(I know, I'd have liked to have seen a Lowry stick version of the Queen too....)

Anyway, over 100 works were commissioned by the Government Art Collection to celebrate the Coronation, with a huge range of artists, from the mundane to the semi-abstract.  Here's the rather lovely Leonard Rosoman version of the same events.

Leonard Rosoman, The Coronation Procession in the Mall, from Admiralty Arch 
© Queen's Printer and Controller of HMSO. Government Art Collection

Lowry was 66 in the year of the Coronation, and had been tasked with perching outside Buckingham Palace on the day in order to do his painting.  He was meant to be at his position at 6am, but was late.  So he didn't make any drawings at the time, but instead went back the next morning to do a few sketches. 

 "What I am going to paint I don't yet know, but it will sort itself out", he wrote to a friend.  Considering that he was only just beginning to gain the sort of recognition as a painter that he craved, and considering the massive importance of the commission, it's an extraordinarily laid-back approach.

So, like the Thurso painting,  he must have sketched the scene in the Mall completely empty of the procession and all the people - in other words, devoid of the whole subject matter of the painting.  But also like the Thurso painting, he then went back to the studio and worked up the finished piece, populating it with the people that he had seen and the energy that he had felt when he had actually been there.  Within the vast crowd in the Coronation painting, there's a tremendous sense of orderliness and control - the rhythm and pattern of the buildings of Buckingham Palace, the line of the carriages, the reverential feeling of the crowd.  The sense of what it was actually like and the public spectacle is there.

The Thurso painting is also a crowd scene, but it's a scene in which the figures talk of a community.  They stop and chat, there's a wide range of ages, there's a leisurely bustle.  It looks like the figures are people who know each other.  Lowry's figures may look simple and stick-like, but they are deceptively well observed.

You can read my other blogposts about L S Lowry HERE and HERE.

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