LAURENCE STEPHEN LOWRY, R.A.Father Going Home
- Laurence Stephen Lowry
- Father Going Home
- signed and dated 1962
- oil on canvas
Michael Grimes, Liverpool, where acquired by the father of the present owner in the late 1980s
Salford, Salford Art Gallery, L.S. Lowry, Centenary Exhibition, 16th October - 29th November 1987, un-numbered exhibition;
Middlesbrough, Cleveland Art Gallery, Lowry, 5th December 1987 - 17th January 1988, cat. no.57, with Arts Council tour to Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, Coventry; Stoke-on-Trent Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent; Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter and Barbican Art Gallery, London.
As Lowry travelled the city – especially as a consequence of his job as a rent collector, something that he continued to do long after he had made it as an artist – he was constantly on alert for those surprising images that the city itself would offer up, with amazing frequency, if only one cared to look. Father Going Home is one such image: humorous, strange, enrapturing, joyful, it feels as ‘natural’ as anything the new breed of ‘street photographers’ of the 1950s and '60s could have come up with. And yet, as always this ‘naturalness’ disguises Lowry’s virtuosity as a painter. In Father Going Home we see all of the subtle tricks with which Lowry infuses his apparent naturalism, quietly distorting the real world to lend it an Expressionist quality not dissimilar to that of Edvard Munch. The man’s body is curved into a deliberate ‘S’; his back heel lifts whilst his front foot twists, almost like a dancer, lending him a swagger that succinctly tells of his mood (a swagger that Lowry leaves us thinking has come from a few swift pints on the way home).
In the window – beautifully rendered with just a few dabs of paint from a loaded brush – a small boy waits, the smile on his face mirroring that of his father. Without this little boy, the painting is still an evocative portrait of a working-man for whom, with the work-day done, all is well in the world. But with him, it creates an emotional charge (framed by hard stone paving slabs and a monotonous red-brick wall) of such sweetness it would melt the hardest of hearts.
In an equally Expressionist manner, Lowry imbues the physical surroundings with the emotion of the main human narrative. A cold, brittle white usually dominates his work, a visual metaphor for the hardness of city life, but here everything is bathed in warmth, from the bright red of the father’s tie, through to the reds that suffuse the green-brown of his coat and his strangely jolly yellow bag, through to the bricks of the terraces, a little pinker and lighter than usual.
Painted in the early 1960s, at a time when Lowry was becoming increasingly fascinated with what he called his ‘grotesques’ – single figures defined by strangeness, otherness, literally isolated against plain white backgrounds – Father Going Home is all about the other side of city life (even if a pub-fuelled temporary reprieve). As British New Wave Cinema of the 1950s and '60s sought to show, working-class culture is not all sorrow: it is irrepressible and has swagger.