Laurence Stephen Lowry

Laurence Stephen Lowry RBA RA, known as L.S. Lowry, was a distinguished English artist whose work is celebrated for its distinctive style and evocative portrayal of industrial northern England. Born in 1887 in Stretford, Lancashire and raised in the leafy outskirts of Manchester, Lowry spent most of his life in the Salford area, which profoundly influenced his artistic vision.

Lowry was an only child. His father was an estate agent, his mother an aspiring pianist. Although the family was middle class, financial difficulties meant they had to move to the insalubrious industrial area of Pendlebury. To help make ends meet, Lowry left school at 16 and clerked at an accountancy firm. Lowry was never a full-time artist: in his early twenties, he took a job as a rent collector, and this would be his primary trade for the next four decades.

Given his day job and the seemingly naive style of his paintings, it was long assumed that Lowry was self-taught. Lowry took evening classes in painting and drawing at the Salford School of Art and the Municipal College of Art, where he studied under the French Impressionist Pierre Adolphe Valette. Lowry never adopted an Impressionist technique or colour range — he often claimed to use just five colours: vermilion, ivory black, Prussian blue, yellow ochre and flake white. What he did share with the Impressionists, however, was a fondness for capturing modern life in an urban landscape.

Lowry is renowned for his unique depiction of urban landscapes filled with industrial scenes, factories and terraced houses. These famous images of working life came from a moment of inspiration after missing a train. His cityscapes are populated by stylised figures often referred to as ‘matchstick men’, but in the mid-to-late 1930s he took to painting people in different way, producing a series of haunting portraits.

Lowry’s works have achieved considerable acclaim and exceptional auction prices. Christie’s has achieved seven of the current top 10 prices for Lowry’s work at auction, including the world auction record price of £7,846,500 for Going to the Match (1953, The Lowry, Manchester) which was established in 2022 in London.

L.S. Lowry paintings often feature scenes of bustling streets and factory life, with a notable focus on movement and activity. His sensibility to capture the spirit of the community is translated on canvas into recurring themes of crowds gathering for a football match and the daily lives of ordinary people. He also had a lifelong fascination with the sea. Lowry painted a number of seascapes in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. Sometimes these expanses of water and sky, separated only by the horizon line, are so empty they border on abstraction. Free of human beings, they are testament to the immeasurable power and presence of nature.

In 1948, as he started to earn good money as a painter, Lowry moved to the affluent village of Mottram in Longdendale, near Manchester. He also began collecting work by artists he admired, particularly the Pre-Raphaelite Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Lowry even started a Rossetti Society, of which he became the first president. L.S. Lowry died in 1976, at the age of 88. Unmarried and childless, he left behind a host of paintings and drawings by Rossetti.

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

Piccadilly Circus, London

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

Industrial Landscape; Stockport Viaduct

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

The Thames from Whitehall Court

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

St Michael and All Angels, Angel Meadow, Manchester

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

A Market Place, Berwick-upon-Tweed