Children is a wonderful example of how Lowry’s many years of artistic training, culminated in a highly sophisticated level of technical prowess. While seemingly a simple scene, when one looks carefully, one begins to appreciate the mastery required to paint such a convincing tableau. Part of Lowry’s genius is his ability to create a story, to pull us into a world, to encourage us to try and work through a social puzzle. In Children, Lowry’s ability to accomplish this is done with an admirable economy. A lamp drawn with eight simple brushstrokes immediately sets the scene - we are out on an everyday city street. Each child, though painted swiftly, is imbued with their own particular sense of character. Each is perfectly weighted - the pose identifiable, from the little boy on the left who turns back to look at the departing group, to the girl’s hand clutching a ball as she walks away - their physical presence rings true, they are caught perfectly mid-action. We begin to wonder what dispute has led the group of children to splinter. What is the relationship between the two boys on the left and the departing four? It is Lowry's ability to convey a convicing and intiguing narrative, painted with a matter of fact frankness, that makes such works so unique.
Lowry's artistic training began with art courses at the Municipal College of Art in Manchester, later studying under the French painter Adolphe Valette. Although their relationship was at times tempestuous, they certainly had a mutual respect, and Valette was undoubtedly an extremely influential tutor for Lowry, who was stimulated by the older artist’s knowledge of the Impressionists, of everything which was current in Paris. Valette, somewhat eccentric in his teaching methods, took the position at Manchester only under the proviso that he be allowed to teach via demonstration rather than the usual lecture format. He would walk amongst the students, observing their work and occasionally pausing to sketch on the corner of their paper to demonstrate some technique or another that could be incorporated in the on-going piece.
Lowry’s education continued in 1909, when he began taking life drawing classes at the Salford School of Art, in 1915 moving into the artist and critic Bernard D. Taylor’s course. In 1918 he was accepted into the prestigious life class at the Manchester Academy of Fine Arts and while he worked during the day for The Pall Mall Property Company collecting rents, he continued to attend the life class for another 10 years.
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