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