Tate Britain’s Lowry exhibition opens this week, and the curators have let us into a little secret… 

1 of 3
  • L. S. Lowry Untitled 1924 Courtesy of Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum (Warwick District Council) © The estate of L.S. Lowry Photo: J. Fernandes, Tate Photography
    LS Lowry
    Untitled 1924
  • L. S. Lowry Old Town 1941 © The Estate of LS Lowry
    L. S. Lowry's 1941 painting Old Town, on display in Lowry and the Painting of Modern Life exhibition at Tate Britain
  • L.S Lowry's The Mission Room, 1937
    L.S Lowry's The Mission Room, 1937. On show at Tate Britain, this work shares the wooden board it's painted on with another unnamed work concealed on the back

If you go and see Tate Britain’s Lowry show, opening this week, you’ll see the painter’s famous industrial landscapes belatedly taking their place in the first major London show since his death in 1976.

What you won’t see is a secret work sitting quietly on the back of one of the paintings! We tell no lies – this secret work will be present if not visible, and reveals a significant connection between two of Lowry’s other works on display. So, if you’re visiting the show, impress your friends with this little nugget: said secret painting lies undetectable in Room 3, on the back of the painting, The Mission Room.

This intriguing tale begins in a cabinet in Room 2, where you’ll see a reproduction of Lowry’s A Town Square – a milling scene in front of a Salford town-centre backdrop painted in 1928 – displayed within a French dictionary of contemporary artists from 1931. Keep that busy scene in your mind and head to Room 3, where on the right hand wall you can see Our Town, painted years later in 1941.

See the similarity? No particular connection was made between these two town scenes until this show brought them together along with a missing link – the untitled work on the back of the wooden panel better known as The Mission Room, on loan from the Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum. Seeing them all together, Tate curators discovered that the unnamed painting, made in 1924, is in fact an earlier version of both of them – which Lowry was clearly unhappy with and rejected when he painted The Mission Room on the other side in 1937. The discovery highlights how often Lowry returned to and honed his favourite scenes in his work over the years.

Sadly, the discovery was made too late for curators to display the panel with both sides visible in the show – so we’ve got it here for you, our Lowry-loving friends.

Let us know what you think of it, and come back to our Lowry blog for more Lowry-on-the-downlow soon.

Lowry and the Painting of Modern Life is at Tate Britain from 26 June to 20 October


My friend and I loved the Lowry Exhibition despite the Telegraph negative write up. For me personally it took me back to my childhood growing up in the Potteries in the late forties - fifties with the smoke from the bottleneck ovens and other chimneys. The Grey gloom that some people mentioned was not how it felt that was the atmosphere and the lack of colour was so typical of that time. Lowry's paintings are an amazing view of everyday life at that particular time and place in history. I spoke to some people on the cafe afterwards and they were thrilled with the work too and were fascinated to hear my recollections of life in the smoke - how washing put out always had little tiny dots of black from the chimneys and the buildings were black with soot deposits. People coming out of the factories had there heads down looking where they were going in order to get home home for their tea. Thanks to Tate Britain for showing this superb exhibition.

thank you so much for letting us know your feelings about the Lowry Exhibition. It was lovely to read how much you enjoyed it. Hope to see you at Tate Britain again soon

"Our Town" is a painting of several and which I have one of the originals. This is not a signed work alas but joyful never the less for seeing. L S Lowry was a larger than life person who was a member of our evening life drawing class in Salford.

Edward of York