Lowry and the Painting of Modern Life
L.S. Lowry is a peculiar figure in the art world. The twentieth century English artist, famous for his paintings depicting working class life against a backdrop of industry, is revered in the UK, yet, internationally, his standing is relatively low.
Lowry doesn’t, for example, attract the same sort of fanfare that the likes of Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali and Henri Matisse do, be it at auction or critically. It’s an oddity. His style was unique, tender and sympathetic to the harsh realities of life for the not so well to do.
His landscapes conveyed the uneasiness of this existence. Street scenes are often about contrasts, with tiny little human beings dwarfed by huge buildings and factories churning out smoke.
Tate Britain has taken it upon itself to boost Lowry’s renown globally with the launch of a major retrospective of the artist’s work in June. Entitled Lowry and the Painting of Modern Life, the show is about righting wrongs.
What most concerns supporters of Lowry is the neglect he has suffered since his death in 1976. There hasn’t been a show of this stature and size for a very, very long time.
This monumental exhibition is being curated by two of the world’s most respected art historians, T.J. Clark and Anne M. Wagner. Mr Clark, a foremost expert in French impressionism, said that, for some reason, Lowry is an artist who is “taken for granted and condescend to”.
There is also an element of derision, as if Lowry simply doesn’t cut it among his contemporaries. To those of such an opinion, the English painter is certainly someone with something to say, but not enough to keep people occupied.
Mr Clark gives a fitting example. When discussing with colleagues, associates and friends his efforts to curate this show, he has effectively been met with incredulity and disappointment, as if such a thing were a waste of time. He describes this as a “metropolitan resistance to taking the north seriously as a subject for art”.
“It may now be possible to look beyond that condescension at a time … when the limits of the London art world’s view of art are pretty obvious,” he was quoted by the Guardian as saying.
“It is extraordinary to me, this image of him as an amateur, as someone who could barely paint, won’t die. To me it is absolutely astonishing. And coded into this conversation by the metropolitan elite is the idea that someone who paints this subject matter can’t be taken seriously.”
Up until now that is. This extensive show, which comes about after 18 months worth of detailed research, aims to reveal what Lowry means to art history. Additionally, it is hoped it results in a much more serious, probing debate about the artist himself and what his legacy to the north is.
Lowry and the Painting of Modern Life at Tate Britain runs from June 26th until October 20th 2013.
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