Curator Claire Stewart at The Lowry in Salford opens up the archive of Lowry's work - from stamps of his work to his paintbrushes, they’ve got it, with a few surprises along the way

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  • Lowry's early sketches The Lowry Collection
    A sketch of the female nude by Lowry
  • Lowry Stamps The Lowry Archive
    An envelope from 1967 with a stamp illustrated with Lowry's 'Coming out of School', as well as art by Stubbs and Lawrence
  • Lowry's paintbrushes in The Lowry archive
    Claire showing some of Lowry's paintbrushes and painting material
  • Lowry's early sketches The Lowry Collection
    An example of Lowry's early sketches, looking at hands, heads and the torso
  • Lowry's early sketches The Lowry Collection
    An sketch by Lowry of the human figure
  • An original drawing by Lowry in a small sketchbook - The Lowry Archive
    An original drawing by Lowry 'Nr. Blackpool' in a small sketchbook
  • Claire Stewart at The Lowry Archive
    Archivist Claire Stewart at The Lowry in Salford, showing items of Lowry's work in the archive to us

There are a few key motifs that come to mind when I think of the artist L. S. Lowry; tweed, trench coats, and bowler hats being some of them. But classic clothing choices aside, when it comes to his painting, pure grey skies merging into plumes of smoke, blankets of brown brick and dashes of vermillion are almost always what spring to my mind. On a visit to the archive in The Lowry in Salford I expected to see plenty of sketches of the Manchester landscape as well as some ephemera - I do love seeing a used paintbrush and palette to imagine how an artist might have moved the paint around - but I wasn’t expecting to see delicately sketched sets of limbs, nudes and faces. Not from the man who paints crowds of tiny figures doing the daily round on the street.

Lowry's early sketches The Lowry Collection
Detailed anatomical pencil drawings by Lowry

In 1905 Lowry started evening classes in antique and freehand drawing. He studied at both in the Manchester Academy of Fine Art and at Salford Royal Technical College in Peel Park and records show that he still attended classes in the 1920s. Claire revealed a series of closely observed anatomical drawings it’s presumed he completed as a student. She explained how ‘they’re single sheets now - anything from pen and ink line drawings, to these figure studies.’

Photo of Lowry's house - The Lowry Archive Collection
A photograph of the interior of Lowry's house, with the Ford Madox Brown picture on the wall

Then there’s the photographs of Lowry, most of which were taken ‘later in his life because that’s when he was getting better known and people wanted to hear more about him’ says Claire. She shows me some black and white photos of the interior of his house and let slip that he was terrible at organising his post: ‘he never opened his mail half of the time, he just chucked things in this bowl on the living room table.’ Brilliant, sounds like home to me. Then there’s a photograph showing a Ford Madox Brown work on his wall. Claire described how ‘he was one of his favourite artists and of course, his murals are in the Town Hall in Manchester…and you can see his radio, he always liked to paint listening to music.’ 

So when I think of Lowry now, I know I’ll still picture him all layered-up in heavy tweed, but with that I’ll also imagine him coming home from life drawing class and casually throwing his post on the floor.

The LS Lowry Archive is at The Lowry in Salford and includes a wide range of material on L.S. Lowry. Visits available via appointments only

Lowry and the Painting of Modern Life is on display at Tate Britain until Sunday 20 October 2013