Laurence Stephen Lowry
(1 Nov 1887 â€“ 23 Feb 1976)
was an English artist born in Stretford, Lancashire. Many of his drawings and paintings depict nearby Salford and surrounding areas, including Pendlebury, where he lived and worked for over 40 years.
Lowry is famous for painting scenes of life in the industrial districts of North West England in the mid-20th century. He had a distinctive style of painting and is best known for urban landscapes peopled with human figures often referred to as "matchstick men". He also painted mysterious unpopulated landscapes, brooding portraits, and the unpublished "marionette" works, which were only found after his death.
Because of his use of stylised figures and the lack of weather effects in many of his landscapes he is sometimes characterised as a naÃ¯ve 'Sunday painter' although this is not the position of the galleries that have organised retrospectives of his works.
A large collection of Lowry's work is on permanent public display in a purpose-built art gallery on Salford Quays, appropriately named the Lowry. Lowry rejected five honours during his life - including a knighthood in 1968 and consequently holds the record for the most rejected British honours.
Lowry was born in November 1887 at 8 Barrett Street, Old Trafford, in Stretford. It was a difficult birth, and his mother Elizabeth, who hoped for a girl, was uncomfortable even looking at him at first. Later she expressed envy of her sister Mary, who had "three splendid daughters" instead of one "clumsy boy". Lowry's father Robert, a clerk for the Jacob Earnshaw and Son Property Company, was a withdrawn and introverted man whom Lowry once described as "a cold fish" and "(the sort of man who) realised he had a life to live and did his best to get through it."
After Lowry's birth, his mother's health was too poor for her to continue teaching. She is reported to have been gifted and respected, with aspirations of becoming a concert pianist. She was an irritable, nervous woman brought up to expect high standards by her stern father. Like him, she was controlling and intolerant of failure. She used illness as a means of securing the attention and obedience of her mild and affectionate husband and she dominated her son in the same way. Lowry maintained, in interviews conducted later in his life, that he had an unhappy childhood, growing up in a repressive family atmosphere. Although his mother demonstrated no appreciation of her son's gifts as an artist, a number of books Lowry received as Christmas presents from his parents are inscribed to "Our dearest Laurie." At school he made few friends and showed no academic aptitude. His father was affectionate towards him but was, by all accounts, a quiet man who was at his most comfortable fading into the background as an unobtrusive presence.
Much of Lowry's early years were spent in the leafy Manchester suburb of Victoria Park, Rusholme but in 1909, due to financial pressures, the family moved to 117 Station Road in the industrial town of Pendlebury. Here the landscape comprised textile mills and factory chimneys rather than trees. Lowry later recalled: "At first I detested it, and then, after years I got pretty interested in it, then obsessed by it...One day I missed a train from Pendlebury - (a place) I had ignored for seven years â€” and as I left the station I saw the Acme Spinning Company's mill ... The huge black framework of rows of yellow-lit windows standing up against the sad, damp charged afternoon sky. The mill was turning out... I watched this scene â€” which I'd looked at many times without seeing â€” with rapture..."