Unlike many of his artworks which rely on horizontal planes of perspective to create depth, in this upright format his receding street serves to lead us towards the central vanishing point and into the city. Lowry achieves this through brilliant craftsmanship which shows his technical abilities and the extent of his art training. Lowry studied at Manchester Municipal College of Art under the French Impressionist Adolphe Valette. Later he attended weekly life classes at Salford School of Art and the incredible skills and artistry he learnt over the years are aptly deployed in this work to create his unique vision of municipal life. Painting at night, referring to sketches, he would often rework canvases over several months to achieve his desired effect. In this work, the architecture which rises up either side of the street as it winds into the distance serves to frame the thoroughfare, focusing our attention further by creating perceptual planes. The richly-coloured buildings lining the right edge of the composition zig-zag in towards the midpoint and these, along with the curve of the wall and pavement on the left side, serve to narrow our vision down the central avenue towards the all-important viaduct, which crosses the centre of the work exactly at our eye line. The significance of this area of the painting has already been alluded to.
With trademark use of flake-white impasto Lowry captures the bleak, smog-filled environment that he knew so well and imbues the scene with harmonious warmth and a luminous glow. Lowry's range of colours was straightforward but effective. 'I am a simple man, and I use simple materials. Ivory, black, vermilion, Prussian blue, yellow ochre, flake white and no medium (e.g. linseed oil). That's all I have ever used in my paintings. I like oils....I like a medium you work into over a period of time' (L.S. Lowry, quoted in Mervyn Levy, The Paintings of L.S. Lowry, Jupiter Books, London, 1975, p.14). The graduation of tone from the foreground to the background adds to the sense of depth in this composition, as does Lowry's masterly use of colour in the splashes of red and blue of the figures clothing which our eye cannot help but follow through the crowd and into the distance under the viaduct.
This is a scene humming with activity, in which Lowry instinctively captures the movement of people in a city centre. A group of women appear to be gossiping under the lamp post and a brightly-dressed red-headed lady strides confidently across the flow of commuters towards the edge of the painting. As always in Lowry's work the focus is on the smoking chimneys and pointed spire which loom out of the smog in the distance towards which heavily-booted millworkers stride with a calm sense of purpose.
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