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Laurence Stephen Lowry, R.A. (1887-1976)

The Thames from Whitehall Court

Laurence Stephen Lowry, R.A. (1887-1976)
The Thames from Whitehall Court
signed and dated 'L.S. LOWRY 1957' (lower left)
oil on canvas
22 x 30 in. (55.9 x 76.2 cm.)
with Lefevre Gallery, London.
W.H. Haslam.
with Crane Kalman Gallery, London, where purchased by Posgate and Denby Agencies Ltd. in June 1979.
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 13 May 1987, lot 178, where purchased by the present owner's husband.
Exhibition catalogue, L.S. Lowry Retrospective Exhibition, Manchester, City of Manchester Art Gallery, 1959, p. 16.
A. Kalman and A. Lambirth, L.S. Lowry Conversation Pieces, London, 2003, p. 134, illustrated.
Manchester, City of Manchester Art Gallery, L.S. Lowry Retrospective Exhibition, June - July 1959, no. 68.
Sheffield, Graves Art Gallery, The Works of LS Lowry, September - October 1962, no. 72.
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Philip Harley
Philip Harley

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Lot Essay

The present composition shows a view across the River Thames painted from an upper storey of the ornate Whitehall Court mansion block, close to the north end Hungerford bridge.

The industrial character of the central chimney, the Walker & Co. Lead Works and Shot Tower, is offset by ultra-modernity represented by the Royal Festival Hall, which is the most sharply delineated, nearly abstracted, building in the picture, composed almost entirely of crisp, black, horizontals and verticals. Giles Gilbert Scott's Bankside Power Station, now the Tate Modern, belching smoke from the horizon, is visible further in the distance.

Lowry exhibited this picture at his 1959 retrospective exhibition in the City of Manchester Art Gallery. The catalogue note describes this as 'one of the artist's rare London scenes' (exhibition catalogue, loc. cit), and it is true that, although Lowry was not an infrequent visitor to the city, it features in only a handful of his works. He also famously painted Piccadilly Circus and St Luke's Church, Old Street.

The Thames from Whitehall Court is, for the most part, a very accurate depiction of the scene, with Blackfriars, Waterloo and Hungerford Bridges all occupying their true locations, down to the placement of their piers. Lowry has, however, adapted the size and location of some buildings to suit his composition. St Paul's Cathedral has been much enlarged into a looming, shadowy presence. Also larger are the OXO tower, seen faintly amongst the chimneys in the centre of the picture, and Church of St John the Evangelist (today half hidden by the BFI Imax cinema), but in Lowry's picture a staccato note of greys, and red which pricks the right edge of the composition.

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