Lot 1
  • 1


50,000 - 80,000 GBP
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  • Laurence Stephen Lowry
  • Mill Gates
  • signed and dated 1954
  • pencil on paper
  • 28 by 38cm.; 11 by 15in.


Sale, Christie's London, 6th November 1998, lot 74
Richard Green, London, where acquired by the present owner, 7th August 2000


The sheet appears to have been laid down onto a thin conservation backing paper, which has been laid down around the edges of a window mount. There are very minor remnants of adhesive at the lower corners, only visible upon very close inspection. There are Artist's pinholes, possibly repaired, to each of the four corners. There is an historic and repaired 1cm. tear to the centre of the lower edge, with one or two further tiny historic nicks to the lower edge. There is some very minor creasing to the lower part of the right edge and one small vertical crease to the centre of the upper edge. There are a small number of very light rubs to the sheet, including to the lower edge towards the right corner and in the upper right quadrant in the sky. There are one or two tiny flecks of isolated foxing. Subject to the above, the work appears in excellent overall condition with strong and fresh passages of pencil throughout. The work is window mounted and held behind glass in a painted gilt 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

As mothers with prams, children with dogs, the elderly and the indentured bustle through the streets, the present scene is one of Lowry’s most proficient syntheses of the vitality of the industrial North. Figures scurrying through industrial landscapes tend to be the compositions which are most typically associated with the artist, and the present work is completely typical within this trope. Divided into almost two separate images, the street scene of the foreground and the industrial townscape of the distance, this work is Lowry at his observational best. Lowry was, throughout his life, a passionate draughtsman. Unlike many artists his drawings typically function as stand-alone creations, and he employed very similar working methods and stylistic effects in both painting and drawing. Mervyn Levy has noted Lowry’s drawings 'are seldom planned as a preparation for painting, and…have always run distinct, if parallel, courses.' (Mervyn Levy, The Drawings of L.S. Lowry, Public and Private, Cory, Adams and Mackay, London, 1963, p.7). They are painterly images, but are not intended to be painted from. For example, the gentle smudging of the smoke from the chimneys in the present work is something that finds its first utilisation in his drawings, and the technique was later incorporated into his paintings.

The use of pencil lends itself to the spare, reduced forms in the present work, denoting action, movement and gesture with immediacy. The delicate dashes of the pencil, which constitute the puppet-like figures progressing towards the mill fittingly express the energy of their movement. The pencil lines are also tonally fitting; the heavy black of the foreground masonry and figures, and the dusty chimneys and air are strongly expressive of the pervasive soot hanging in the air, slowly coating clothing and buildings.

The vast majority of Lowry’s compositions are composite constructions pieced together from a huge volume of memories and past experiences. Having spent years patrolling streets in Manchester as a rent collector, Lowry was constantly witness to the meanderings of life in the industrial city. A solitary man, his experiences as an affirmed spectator lend his works a dispassionate honesty. Despite the works very rarely being representative of a specific event, the authenticity of his art is rarely in doubt. This is perhaps where much of the allure of his works lie, the suggestion that his is the honest opinion of the outsider. In his own words, 'I liked that, to do a picture out of my own head on the blank canvas. I think it gets nearer the truth, because there are no facts to hamper you, and you are setting something down that comes entirely from your own imagination.' (ibid, p.8.)