LAURENCE STEPHEN LOWRY, R.A.A Mill Scene, Wigan
- Laurence Stephen Lowry
- A Mill Scene, Wigan
- signed and dated 1964
- oil on board
Mrs. J. Hunter and thence by descent to the previous owner, 1990
Their sale, Bonhams London, 19th November 2008, lot 61, where acquired by the present owner
(L.S. Lowry, quoted in Allen Andrews, The Life of L.S. Lowry, Jupiter Books, London, 1977, p.44).
As one of Britain’s most popular and beloved artists, L.S. Lowry is typically associated with his depictions of the industrial north. Buzzing scenes full of smoking chimneys with men, women and children on the move brought fame and recognition for the artist from the early 1940s, resulting in several sell-out shows at his London gallery, Alex. Reid & Lefevre. Yet like any great artist Lowry refused to stand still, and continually sought out new inspiration for his work – whether in the form of the eerily empty landscapes of the Yorkshire moors, the stark portraits and figure studies or the seascapes of the North East. So when in the mid-1960s Lowry was challenged by his friend Mr A.E. Hunter that he had lost his ability to recapture the crowd scenes of his earlier work, Lowry readily accepted the test to prove him wrong. The result was the present work, commissioned by Mr Hunter for his daughter, Mrs Lois Leroy in 1964, depicting a mill scene in Wigan, not far from Manchester.
And prove him wrong Lowry certainly did, for the present work captures all the great hallmarks of the artist’s very best industrial scenes, executed on a scale that is strikingly intimate and personal. An avid sketcher, Lowry would take out pencil and paper on his daily rounds as a rent collector, jotting ideas, which were later to be worked up under the stark electric lighting of his attic room studio, and the scale of the present work harks back beautifully to his concept of studying at first hand his subjects and scenes.
A Mill Scene, Wigan is a painting alive with energy and activity. The movement of the figures towards the mill gates seems even more rushed than usual, with figures, arms and legs blurring into each other. Lowry’s characteristic use of red draws the viewer’s eye across and upwards through the composition, to the central spire in the distance, framed beautifully between bellowing chimneys and the tall, imposing factories. The execution of the present work showcases Lowry’s ability to work with the same visual intensity on both a large scale work (as we can see in lot 16) and a smaller, more intimate scale. A Mill Scene, Wigan offers a tightly focused window into Lowry’s memory, depicting a world which already by the mid-1960s was fast disappearing.
This work is sold with a letter dated 9th August 1964 from the Artist to Mr Hunter regarding the commission of this painting.