Lot 8
  • 8

Laurence Stephen Lowry, R.A.

1,000,000 - 1,500,000 GBP
962,500 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Laurence Stephen Lowry, R.A.
  • Punch and Judy
  • signed and dated 1943
  • oil on canvas


Alex. Reid & Lefevre Ltd, London, April 1951
Geoffrey Bennett
His sale, Christie's London, 23rd March 1995, lot 107
Private Collection
Their sale, Christie's London, 4th June 2004, lot 79, where acquired by the late owner 


London, Alex. Reid & Lefevre Ltd, Paintings by Barbara Hepworth, Paintings by L.S. Lowry, April 1948, cat. no.20;.
Brussels, Palais des Beaux Arts, Peinture Contemporaine en Grande Breatagne, October - November 1948, cat. no.15, illustrated fig.12;
Salford, City Art Gallery, Retrospective Exhibition of the Work of L.S. Lowry, 21st July - 19th August 1951, cat. no.51; 
London, Royal Academy of Arts, L.S. Lowry, 4th September - 14th November 1976, cat. no.137, illustrated;
Carlisle, Tuillie House, The Reverend Mr Bennett's Lowrys, January - April 1992, cat. no.4;
Salford, The Lowry, A Lowry Summer, 7th July – 9th September 2012, un-numbered exhibition.


Maurice Collis, The Discovery of L.S. Lowry, Alex. Reid & Lefevre Ltd, London, 1951, illustrated pl.13;
Andras Kalman in conversation with Andrew Lambirth, L.S. Lowry Conversation Pieces, Chaucer Press, London, 2003, illustrated p.21, p.83 (as Punch and Judy Show)
Shelley Rohde, The Lowry Lexicon, The Lowry Centre Ltd, Salford, 2001, illustrated p.47;
T.G. Rosenthal, L.S. Lowry, The Art and the Artist, Unicorn Press, Norwich, 2010, p.129, illustrated p.277.

Catalogue Note

Like many British children, Lowry probably saw his first Punch and Judy show at the seaside: as a child, holidays were spent at his mother’s favourite boarding house at Lytham St Anne’s on the Fylde coast or at one of the coastal resorts in North Wales. During the Winter months, Punch and Judy shows were also familiar sights around the city; indeed, the famous Codman family of Punchmen of ‘Professors’ regularly occupied a spot outside Liverpool’s Lime Street Station from 1860 until 1957 when their pitch was transformed into a roundabout.

The comic exploits of Punch and his long suffering wife Judy have been embedded in British culture for several hundred years. Samuel Pepys noted in his diary on 9th May 1662 that he had been to Covent Garden to see a puppet play: ‘Thence to see an Italian puppet play that is within the rayles there, which is very pretty, the best that I ever saw, and a great resort of gallants...’. Performed by the Italian Pietro Gimonde from Bologna, the play would have featured an early version of Punch, or Pulchinello as he was known then.

By the end of the 18th century, puppet shows featuring the now anglicised Punch could be seen in portable booth-like mini theatres throughout Britain. It was in the 19th century however, that the show really came in to its own; he acquired his wife, Judy, adopted his blue and red dress and jester’s hat and developed his distinctive voice created with a whistle-like device known as a swazzle. Charles Dickens noted: ‘In my opinion, the street Punch is one of those extravagant reliefs from the realities of life...’ (letter to Mary Tyler, 6th November 1849). Using a so-called slapstick to batter virtually any character he came across, Punch would undoubtedly have provided welcome distraction from the grey trudge of everyday life.

By the beginning of the Edwardian times the popularity of Punch and Judy had soared, in large part due to the explosion of seaside holiday towns, made accessible to one and all through the development of the railway. With the rise of the seaside town, the traditional audience for the show also changed and they became increasingly popular as a form of children’s entertainment. In the present work, Punch and Judy’s instantly recognisable red and white booth can be found in the heart of the city and has drawn quite a crowd, providing a much needed outing for scores of parents and their children. Men, women, girls and boys have stopped in their tracks and turned instinctively towards the cocophany of swazzle voices emanating from the background. Seated under the metal awning of one of Manchester’s Victorian railway stations or market places, several bystanders pass away the time uninterested although all the children, save for the young boy on the far left, have turned towards Punch - a welcome pause in another day of routine drudgery.

Dated 1943, in the middle of WWII, Punch and Judy strikes an undoubtedly hopeful tone and it is highly significant that Lowry chose the present work as his first image to be reproduced in print. After the war, he was invited to participate in Brenda Rawnsley’s School Prints project, to submit a picture to be made into a print with the primary purpose of bringing Contemporary Art to a much wider audience and in particular, to young children who wouldn’t otherwise have access to it. All the prints in the project were produced to the same size so that they could be interchangeable in standard sized frames. Artists were selected by a committee chaired by Herbert Read and the project included work from artists such as Henry Moore, John Nash and John Tunnard. Lowry selected Punch and Judy to be made into a lithograph by the Baynard Press where it was printed in an edition of 6000 and sold for about £3 each.  

The first owner of Punch and Judy was Geoffrey Bennett, one of the artist’s closest and longest standing friends who became a major collector of his work. They first met in 1926 when Bennett was twenty-six and worked as a clerk at the County and London Westminster Bank with Lowry’s cousin Grace in Manchester. He later became manager of the Westminster Bank in Cleator Moor, Cumbria, and in the 1950s, the artist visited frequently, painting local scenes such as Cleator Moor’s market place and Fish and Chip shop. Bennett became a vicar in 1962 and when his close friend died in 1976, he conducted the funeral service himself. He remembered: ‘Mr Lowry and I had an affinity which is rare between two people. It was a sympathy, an understanding. I could understand him perfectly, and I think he understood me, because our background, our upbringing were so similar. There was no fuss about our friendship. We simply accepted each other...’ (Geoffrey Bennett, quoted in Shelley Rohde, L.S.Lowry A Biography, Lowry Press, Salford, 1979, 1999 p.180).