As works by Lowry go under the hammer at Christie's in London, we take a closer look at the man famous for his ‘matchstick men’ and ‘matchstick cats and dogs’.
On of the paintings featured in the auction is 'Coronation Street' which was painted in 1957 and shows a typical street in Salford with terraced back houses in the shadow of a factory chimney. It went on to inspire the producers at Granada to name the long standing Soap Coronation Street after it. Other names in the running were Florizel Street and Jubilee Street.
The painting has been on long-term loan to the Lowry gallery in Salford since 2000 and is expected to fetch between £300,000-£500.
Also among the lots at the auction is 'The Football Match', created in 1949, which is valued at £3.5m-£4.5m. Stop Press: The picture actually raised a staggering £5.6 million on the night, a new world record for a Lowry painting!
L. S. Lowry’s work has always been popular with the public. Harold Wilson once used his painting 'The Pond' for a Downing Street Christmas card, and 'Coming out of school' was used for a postage stamp in 1967 and sold 11 million copies.
Despite his continuing popularity with the public Lowry’s fame was slow to build in his lifetime and he is often seen as having a difficult relationship with the art establishment.
He studied art at evening school and worked as a rent collector and clerk with the Pall Mall Property Company in Manchester until he retired in 1952. However he kept this employment a secret in order to be taken seriously as an artist. Much of Lowry’s life was quite secretive and he loved a good story far more than accuracy in an anecdote. He did his best until his death to maintain his image of a simple man refusing several honours including a Knighthood, and in the same small, un-modernised house in Cheshire.
It was not until he was in his 50’s that he exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy in London and in 1962 he became a Royal Academician. When he began to make money from the sale of his work he could then indulge his love for art and owned a number of paintings and sketches by the Pre-Raphaelite artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and a drawing by Lucien Freud.
The relationship between the public love of Lowry work and the perceived negative judgment of the art establishment continues to rumble on. After filming a recent documentary for ITV the actor Ian McKellen challenged the Tate to sell its collection of Lowry’s work rather than keep them in storage unseen. To see the best collection of Lowry’s work you need to go to Salford where he painted and visit the Lowry centre.