As Tate Britain gears up for its major exhibition on L.S Lowry, Assistant Curator Helen Little kicks off our revealing blog series and re-introduces a great British artist we all thought we knew
My ambition was to put the industrial scene on the map because nobody had done it, nobody had done it seriously.
‘What are you doing when you’re not painting?’ someone asked Lowry, ‘Thinking about painting.’
The exhibition, opening on 26 June, brings together the very best of Lowry’s urban scenes and industrial landscapes that encourage us to think about Lowry’s contribution to art history, arguing for his achievement as Britain’s pre-eminent painter of the industrial city. It is a long overdue exhibition – the first in a public London gallery since his death in 1976, and we hope that its particular focus will enable visitors to look afresh at his best known work or perhaps discover it for the first time.
Lowry recalled that his ambition to make the industrial landscape a subject for his art began with his regular Saturday night walks from his home in Pendlebury to Bolton. Here, he would eat at Seymour Mead’s café with the clanking and thumping of the machinery at nearby Kearsley Colliery echoing in his ears, after which, in the dark on the way home, he would think about the beauty and mystery of it all.
Lowry devoted his life to painting the England of the Industrial Revolution and the everyday Salford of the working class. His paintings might seem narrow in range, but they are actually complex records that are hard to pin down. For many, his paintings recall powerful memories of a world that rapidly declined after the Second World War and during the later twentieth century, while for others, they continue to draw out different notions of beauty. His vision might look peculiar, but it was certainly intense. Lowry was always searching for the new.
Join me over the coming months as I explore Lowry’s unique vision and some of the themes of the exhibition. I look forward to posting more soon and to hearing your stories and views.
Helen Little is Assistant Curator, Modern and Contemporary British Art. Follow Helen on Twitter, @HelenLittle3
Lowry and the Painting of Modern Life is on display at Tate Britain from 26 June to 20 October