It would be a mistake to conceive of Lowry, as many do, as purely a painter of urban and industrial scenes. Portraiture, seascapes and rural landscape too held great interest for him. His sheer diversity as an artist is often overlooked but owes much to his lengthy artistic education: having studied for many years at the Municipal College of Art in Manchester endowed Lowry with an academic training – an understanding of which underpins all his compositions.
Lowry was a keen walker throughout his life and the present work, painted in 1943, belongs to a series of landscapes that are far removed from his depictions of bustling urban scenes. In some works, only a few scattered farm houses on the horizon indicate any sign of human habitation, in others, such as A Lancashire farm, the figures included are reduced to a few suggestive brushstrokes, dwarfed by the landscape surrounding them.
A Lancashire farm in many ways is a typical Lowry landscape composition, a carefully constructed scene with a road centrally-placed. Unlike many of his landscapes, however, this road does not lead into the distance, but draws our eye up and into to the farm house. The farm, far from being isolated, is surrounded by barns and traditional outbuildings, which provide an almost stage-like backdrop to the composition, for this is where the detail is. Sometimes these images are empty of people, as the foreground intimates, however, as the scene recedes, we encounter the action: a group of just distinguishable people take care of their chickens in the field on the left, and another walk in the road, up to the farm. Mirroring the path of the road, Lowry uses the strong lines of the post and rail fence to lead our eyes to the farmhouse, and into the heart of the rural scene. The buildings and the foreground are dark and subtle in tone, but there are solitary splashes of bright red colour, dissecting the composition horizontally and separating the foreground from the action taking place, perhaps unusually, in the background. The scarlet gate, almost exactly in the centre, anchors the composition.
Whilst Lowry’s views are largely composite, rather than topographically accurate, the present work, likely depicts Arden’s Farm in Lancashire. It is a view Lowry painted on a number of occasions, most likely whilst on return visits to an acquaintance.
The predominance of green in the composition seems in stark contrast to Lowry’s visions of industrial landscapes with which we more often associate him. His ubiquitous smoking chimney, however, does still make an appearance. In describing a similar composition from a year later, Rosenthal comments ‘the overall effect is wintry, although not chilling. It is at once a realistic, recording version of a common sight, made beautiful as he makes his mill scenes beautiful, by Lowry's vision mined out of unpromising working environments' (T.G. Rosenthal, L.S Lowry, The Art and the Artist, Norwich, 2010, p. 251).