Laurence Stephen Lowry, R.A. (1887-1976)
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Laurence Stephen Lowry, R.A. (1887-1976)

Industrial Landscape

Laurence Stephen Lowry, R.A. (1887-1976)
Industrial Landscape
signed and dated 'L.S. Lowry 1958' (lower left)
oil on canvas
30 x 25 in. (76.2 x 63.5 cm.)
with Lefevre Gallery, London.
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.


The present work, painted in 1958, is a highly complex, mainly composite industrial landscape. Lowry has packed this grand composition with a plethora of his most recognisable motifs: the red terraced houses; the wrought-iron gateway with the central lamp; football matches in progress; the railway bridge carrying a goods train; and a factory building and chimneys belching out smoke receding into the distance. All are recurring features in Lowry's work.

The background of well-defined architectural structures prevalent in his early industrials has been replaced here by the shapes of the factory's towers and chimneys, which almost blend into the ground, the smoke from the chimney creating a blurred effect in sharp contrast to the stronger colours of the foreground. The viewer is drawn into this ghostly background through Lowry's Russian doll device of repeating shapes in formation, as they recede towards the vanishing point. The red-brick houses frame the canvas on either side, as our eye is led between them to follow the figure through the prominently placed first set of gateposts. Through this we discover a further pair of gates in the background, whose compositional placement between a railway arch echoes quite clearly the strong line of the iron arch of those in the foreground. These frieze-like receding planes of the composition are typical of Lowry's technique. This is emphasised by the railing that divides the groups of figures in the foreground from the more diminutive groups and industrial elements further beyond.

This type of division of the composition reinforces the themes of isolation and separation which run throughout Lowry's work. Maurice Collis comments on the anthropomorphic qualities evident in Lowry's buildings, 'The windows are sometimes like his eyes, sometimes like his whole face as it would be represented in an abstract style. The half human houses watch the scene with mournful detachment. This variation of the theme of the solitary, where Lowry is not only the figure in a scene but becomes a presence watching it, is suggested at times by the composition alone. For instance, it is a common thing to find a barrier in the foreground of his pictures - railings, posts or the like - as if he were looking on from behind a barrier, which he could not pass' (see M. Collins, The Discovery of L.S. Lowry, London, 1951, p. 22).

By the mid-1950s and into the 60s and 70s, single figures and small groups of people were taking the place of crowds in Lowry's paintings. His figures became part of an iconography which allowed them to be moved at will to wherever they best fit in the scheme of the work. There are the mills and factories with, of course, the rows of red-brick terraced houses, all looming large. Often Lowry added non-existent parts to major buildings. Here was Lowry's art; he was able to extract the essence of whatever other view that he encountered. With his ability he incorporated his own feelings so that one sees a scene exactly how Lowry saw it.

The typical elevated viewpoint, from which this work is painted, gives these figures a diminutive feel in comparison to the urban sprawl beyond them. This device is particularly present in the 1951 landscape, Industrial Scene, sold in these Rooms on 16 November 2007, lot 117, £1,476,500 (private collection).