Laurence Stephen Lowry, R.A. (1887-1976)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more THE PROPERTY OF A LADY
Laurence Stephen Lowry, R.A. (1887-1976)

Family Group

Laurence Stephen Lowry, R.A. (1887-1976)
Family Group
signed and dated 'L.S. Lowry 1955' (lower right)
oil on canvas
30 x 40 in. (76.2 x 101.5 cm.)
with Lefevre Gallery, London.
Monty Bloom, Southport.
Anonymous sale; Christie's, London, 11 June 1976, lot 109, as 'The Onlookers', where purchased by the present owner.
Sunderland, Arts Council of Great Britain, Sunderland Art Gallery, L.S. Lowry R.A. Retrospective Exhibition, August - September 1966, no. 75: this exhibition travelled to Manchester, Whitworth Art Gallery, September - October 1966; Bristol, City Art Gallery, October - November 1966; and London, Tate Gallery, November 1966 - January 1967.
Southport, Atkinson Art Gallery, The Bloom Collection, 1967, as 'Father of Six', catalogue not traced.
London, Hamet Gallery, L.S. Lowry, September - October 1972, no. 16, as 'Father of six - his family'.
Special notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

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Lot Essay

'The idea for this painting was based on a family which the artist saw waiting at a bus stop. He was struck by the fact that they all looked highly intelligent. The figure in the centre is the father, who is disappointed in his children." (Exhibition catalogue, L.S Lowry R.A. Retrospective Exhibition, Arts Council, 1966, p. 16).

This rather anecdotal catalogue entry for the 1966 Arts Council Retrospective Exhibition is a typically whimsical explanation by Lowry of what is in fact a most intriguing and unique painting. The artist himself, sketchbook in pocket, can be identified on the far right hand side. With his back to everyone he surreptitiously observes the family group over his right shoulder. Within the group there appear to be not one but two figures identifiable as Ann, the enigmatic character that Lowry frequently referred to in various guises but no one actually met. It is very rare to see both the artist and the mythical creation of the artist's god daughter in the same painting.
In 1954 Lowry became fascinated in the Italian playwright, Luigi Pirandello's iconoclastic play Six Characters in Search of an Author. The play opened at the Arts Theatre Club, London on 23 June 1954 and transferred to the St James's Theatre on 20 July 1954. Lowry himself said of this play that it was 'the only time in my life I have been strongly influenced by a play. I went to see it nine times' (S. Rohde, A Private View of L.S. Lowry, London, 1979, p. 178).

The play is about the relationship between authors and their characters; fantasy and reality. Six characters interrupt the rehearsals of an ongoing play. The father of the group states that they are looking for an author to finish their story. The director, intrigued, allows them to tell their story of suicide, incest and sibling murder. As the action, seen and unseen, unfolds, the fine line between reality and fantasy becomes ambiguous. What is real and what is acted is no longer clear. The play finishes with the Manager exclaiming 'Pretence? Reality? To hell with it all! Never in my life has such a thing happened to me. I've lost a whole day over these people, a whole day!'

Lowry was fascinated by the idea of individuals waiting for their life to be 'directed' or 'written' and it has even been suggested by Shelley Rohde when referring to Ann that 'She was, like Pirandello's Six, a character in search of an artist.'
(S. Rohde, A Private View of L.S. Lowry, London, 1979, p. 182).

'The Family Group', suspended in flake white, is as much an absurd fantasy as a concrete reality. The story, half told about an intelligent family and a disappointed father needs to find an author to allow the characters to live.
'Oh sir, you know well that life is full of infinite absurdities, which, strangely enough, do not even need to appear plausible, since they are true'.

(L. Pirandello, Six Characters in Search of an Author, 1921, Act I).

Variously titled as The Onlookers, Father of Six Children, and Father of Six - his family, Family Group has always intrigued observers with the ambiguity of Lowry's subject matter.

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