Nadia Ryzhakova


L. S. Lowry: The Art & the Artist

The Lowry. Manchester. 14 April 2016.

Laurence Stephen Lowry himself said: ‘I am not an artist. I am a man who paints’. Nevertheless, for me he is an embodiment of a genuine artist for whom creating was a real necessity equal to physiological need for breathing. This is the reason why I want to write about L. S. Lowry: about his approach to art, and what influenced him. This post is based on my recent visit to Lowry’s exhibition last week at The Lowry gallery in Manchester.

The Lowry gallery claims to host the world's largest collection of his work. It houses 55 of his paintings and 278 drawings.

‘… You get used to painting and you paint, and you paint, and you paint. Whether you are in the mood of painting makes no difference. You can be not in the mood when you start and get used to it, and you carry on just the same. I think, from my own experience, the lesser the mood for painting, the better pictures you paint…’ - L. S. Lowry, 1957.

The development of Lowry as an artist closely relates to and derives from his childhood. His state of mind was traumatised by his mother since his very birth. The woman wanted to have a girl and was greatly disappointed about having a boy. Her son was a disappointment to her for all her life. She never encouraged his love for art and thought of it as merely avocation. During her lifetime Lowry painted only secretly in his room at night, while working as a rent collector during the day. Being very much attached to his mother, all his life Lowry was seeking her appreciation, but all in vain. The broken relationship with his mother laid foundation for unusual relationships with women in his adulthood. He, it seems, was never romantically attracted to any woman and never got married.

‘… Had I not been lonely, none of my work would have happened. I should not have done what I’ve done, or seen the way I saw things. I work because there’s nothing else to do. Painting is a marvelous way of passing the time, and very interesting when you get into it…’

He never sought recognition as an artist. When in his later life he finally got recognised and started to command large sums for the sale of his works, he purchased a number of paintings and drawings by the Pre-Raphaelite artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti. He was obsessed about his romantically idealised female portraits, which he hung all over his bedroom. Lowry considered Rossetti to be his chief inspiration, while himself predominately depicting grotesque portraits of low-class society, industrial landscapes dominating people, and empty land- and seascapes.

Lowry is an artist who locked himself in his inner world full of ghosts. He could free himself from them only when painting, picturing his fears on a canvas. Therefore, his creativity was his way of survival, his physiological need, without it he could not exist. 

‘… When it came to painting I really liked to do imaginary compositions in my room. I used to start in the morning in front of a big white canvas, and I’d say: “ I don’t know what I’m going to do with you, but by the evening I’ll have something on you.”…’