Lowry and the Painting of Modern Life: School Prints 1946–7

Banner for the Tate Britain exhibition on Lowry

The fourteen lithographs presented here offer a vivid sampling of Tate’s ‘School Prints’, an ambitious scheme launched at the close of the Second World War by Brenda Rawnsley. Aiming to find ‘a means of giving schoolchildren access to contemporary art’, she enlisted artists – Lowry among them – and formed a committee to vet their work. The critic Herbert Read, an authority on children’s art, was its chair, and scrutiny was keen.

Brightly coloured and affordably priced, the results hung in classrooms and corridors across Britain. At the height of the scheme, some 4,000 schools subscribed. In return, they received images of a peaceful and prosperous nation unscarred by war. And this reparative imagery, it seems, was a large part of the collection’s appeal. When Rawnsley began to offer abstractions by artists like Henry Moore, Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, purchasers promptly lost interest and she was forced to close.