Lot 10
  • 10

Laurence Stephen Lowry, R.A.

60,000 - 80,000 GBP
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  • Laurence Stephen Lowry, R.A.
  • Woman in Red
  • signed and dated 1961.
  • oil on board
  • 19.5 by 15cm.; 7¾ by 6in.


Trafford Gallery, London
Sale, Sotheby's London, 3rd July 2002, lot 93
Messum's, London, where acquired by the present owner in 2004


London, Messum's, British Impressions, Summer 2003, cat. no.23.


The board appears sound. There is some slight rounding to the edges of the board in places, thought to be in keeping with the artist's materials, with some slight losses to the corners and one very tiny fleck of loss at the centre of the right vertical edge. There are some fine lines of reticulation and craquelure apparent to the black pigment in each of the upper corners. Subject to the above, the work appears to be in very good overall condition, with a rich impasto surface. Ultraviolet light reveals a small fleck of retouching in the upper left corner. The work is float mounted and housed in a painted wooden frame. Please telephone the department on +44 (0) 207 293 6424 if you have any questions regarding the present work.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

‘My mood… is over the people in all my scenes. I could not, I did not want to, paint them as they appear. The truth is that I was not painting them. I have been called a painter of the Manchester workpeople. But my figures are not exactly that. They are ghostly figures which tenant these courts and lane-ways which seem to me so beautiful, they are symbols of my mood, they are myself.’ (The Artist quoted in ‘My Lonely Life’ interview with Edwin Mullins, Sunday Telegraph, 20th November 1966)

Although Lowry's interest in the figure is evident throughout his career, it was not until the late 1950s and 60s that he began to abandon his signature crowd scenes in favour of single figures and small groups of people rendered with a more highly developed sense of individual identity. Indeed, during this time Lowry's figures become of such central importance that in works such as Woman in Red he begins to place them not against an urban backdrop, but simply against a white void with only an allusion to a setting, so that the subject of the painting becomes the figures alone, or, crucially, the nebulous atmosphere inhabiting the spaces between them.

Himself often awkward in social situations, Lowry observed with fascination the human interactions of urban life and recorded time and again the various encounters that he came across. Yet, rarely, if ever, do we detect any sense of togetherness or companionship amongst his characters. Even his depictions of small, seemingly related groups of people, emit a sense of loneliness and isolation in their inability to connect with one another. In the present work, Lowry has deftly captured a woman fully caught up in a world of her own. Hands rammed into her coat, she barrels hunchbacked down the street, battling against what must be a bitter wind. We have caught her mid journey, perhaps headed home from a long day in the office, unreachably lost in her own thoughts.

There is no doubt that Lowry's fascination with the notion of loneliness was intimately tied to an acute awareness of his own isolation and that his paintings can often be considered as a metaphor for his own relationships. As Michael Howard has suggested, Lowry would paint these types almost as a therapeutic act, 'as a means of populating his own loneliness, and also as a kind of ritual act that would keep the monsters at bay.' (Michael Howard, Lowry: A Visionary Artist, Lowry Press, Salford Quays, 2000, p.171). As with his landscapes, which are rarely, if ever, topographically accurate, Lowry's paintings of people are not just records of contemporary life but are heavily imbued with the artist's emotional response to their, and, in fact, to his own situation. Lowry succeeds in holding up a magnifying glass to the uncomfortable reality of the human condition and highlighting the inadequacy of so many of life's social interactions. It is this combination of 'portraiture' and psychological statement that lends a timeless resonance to his work and instils so much of his apparently mundane subject matter with an uncommon profoundness.