This week Lowry and the Painting of Modern Life opens at Tate Britain - the first exhibition held by a public institution in London since the artist’s death. We invite you to delve into Lowry’s Industrial Landscape, on display in the final room of the show

L.S. Lowry, 'Industrial Landscape' 1955

L.S. Lowry
Industrial Landscape 1955
Oil on canvas
support: 1143 x 1524 mm frame: 1410 x 1790 mm
Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1956© The estate of L.S. Lowry

View the main page for this artwork

When I started it on the plain canvas I hadn’t the slightest idea as to what sort of Industrial Scene would result. But by making a start by putting say a Church or Chimney near the middle of the picture it seemed to come bit by bit.

L.S. Lowry wrote this in a letter to the Tate Gallery in 1956, the year this painting was presented to Tate by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest. In it Lowry offers an explanation of how Industrial Landscape came into being. Painted the previous year in 1955, the painting followed an invitation from the Festival of Britain in 1951 to depict a subject of his choice, where only the work’s size was specified: five feet by almost four feet. The resulting picture is typical of the panoramic cityscapes Lowry went on to paint throughout his career - an imaginary landscape filled with familiar motifs.

Born in Stretford, Lancashire in 1887, Lowry’s works often depicted nearby Salford and the surrounding areas including Pendlebury, where he lived and worked for over 40 years. Elements of this particular panorama are recognisable as real places - the Stockport Viaduct is visible in on the horizon, a railway viaduct which constantly fascinated Lowry and still functions today – and in their layered multiplicity create an otherworldly, dreamlike composition. Smoking chimney after smoking chimney sit atop of factory after factory, flanked by road after road.

Industrial Landscape is on display in the final room of Lowry and the Painting of Modern Life at Tate Britain and the best way to encounter it is to stand squarely in front of it and let its smoke, white sky and blackened bits fill your vision. The painting is almost an invitation to join the figures in the foreground and say farewell to the British industry that was coming to an end, bit by bit.

Lowry and the Painting of Modern Life is on display at Tate Britain from Wednesday 26 June to 20 October 2013

Comments

Thank you very much for sharing your views on the exhibition as well as your very personal reactions and connection to Lowry's work.

Firstly a big thank you for the opportunity to view this wonderful art, disturbing as it was to myself. As an ex miner and factory worker my response to the exhibition was somewhat different from that expressed in the comments and commentary. When the word "beauty" was used I automatically substituted the word brutality. Most, if not quite all, of us said on Monday morning, "Roll on Friday" and wished our lives away. Lowry's detachment from us as a people is illustrated by his talent to reproduce the environment in the brilliant way he did, without emotional contact. It was a pity that the film was tucked into a corner and so many missed that important part of the exhibition.