Laurence Stephen Lowry, R.A. (1887-1976)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE BRITISH COLLECTION
Laurence Stephen Lowry, R.A. (1887-1976)

Industrial Panorama

Laurence Stephen Lowry, R.A. (1887-1976)
Industrial Panorama
signed and dated 'L.S. LOWRY 1954' (lower right)
oil on canvas
24 x 30 in. (61 x 76.2 cm.)
Purchased by Mrs Wood at the 1976 exhibition.
The Property of a Private Family Trust; Christie’s, London, 19 November 2004, lot 136.
Private Collection.
Exhibition catalogue, A Memorial Exhibition of Paintings & Drawings by L.S. Lowry, R.A., London, Lefevre Gallery, pp. 7, 27, no. 18, illustrated.
London, Lefevre Gallery, A Memorial Exhibition of Paintings & Drawings by L.S. Lowry, R.A., May - July 1976, no. 18.
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Lot Essay

There is a beguiling beauty to Lowry’s industrial scene, enhanced by the artist’s carefully balanced composition and his harmonious use of colour, juxtaposing cool vivid blues of the riverbank with rich saturated reds, which undulate across the picture surface, picked up in the central bridge and brick houses. This duality of tone imbues the viewer with the animation of the industrial scene below and yet at the same time leaves them with a sensation of serenity. This tranquility is enhanced by the cool fog, which blankets the industrial scene, and the bellowing clouds of smoke which rise up and punctuate the delicately coloured skyline. Industrial Panorama contains all the elements of Lowry’s beloved industrial oeuvre, with factory buildings, canals and chimneys all pictured here; along with miniature figures and a dog, which board the shoreline in the central foreground. The scene is captured from Lowry’s typically elevated viewpoint giving his figures a diminutive feel, most notable in the present lot, where the vast urban scene seems to sprawl, without cease, into the distance. The ghostly shapes of the industrial buildings, which fade softly into the background whited out by the fog of pollution, grant this feeling of distance, and yet simultaneously lend a poeticism and lyricism to the present work.

On viewing the highly structured, composite landscape of Industrial Panorama, one is unexpectedly transported back some 300 years to the Baroque and the wonderfully lyrical landscape paintings by artists such as Claude Lorrain and Nicolas Poussin. In the mid-Seventeenth Century the landscape was elevated to the stature of history, religious and portrait painting, becoming a highly disciplined genre, particularly in Southern Europe.

These carefully constructed paintings were born out of tireless observation and copious sketching. A distillation of experience to create clearly defined yet fluid areas of space. From immediate picture plain to the ephemeral distance the viewer is led carefully through the painting with mathematical precision. On writing about the landscapes of Nicolas Poussin, Anthony Blunt comments that the paintings of 1648-51 “centre round the expression of a human story or mood…. This basic aim, to make landscape the expression of a human idea, is typical of the humanism of Poussin’s attitude towards his art in the 1640s.” (A. Blunt, ‘The Heroic and the Ideal Landscape in the Work of Nicolas Poussin’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, Volume 7, 1944, p. 157).

Anthony Blunt writing on ‘The Heroic and Ideal Landscapes of L.S. Lowry’ may seem rather absurd, however, the pictorial construction, clarity of line within the architectural elements and the subtle colour deviations within the landscape do give Industrial Panorama ‘the expression of a human story or mood.’

Lowry infuses the Baroque landscape with a very solitary story of the swiftly changing social and physical environment of post-war Britain. Indeed Michael Howard could be referring directly to this painting when he writes, ‘What is the value, Lowry seems to be saying, of all this industrial frenzy in the face of our major spiritual concerns, our metaphysical loneliness and our disregard for our fellow man and the environment in which we live? Lowry’s art, although informed by literature, theatre, film and art is essentially a response to his private experience and he remains, like Blake, profoundly personal and inimitable. He shares with many the acceptance of ‘nothingness’ as the source of true reality. The city in Lowry’s work is a place where natural relationships are impossible to sustain. Man’s fragile identity with the natural rhythms and cycles has been broken by the industrial processes and his world is reduced to a timeless, seasonless, weatherless place. His paintings are articulate testimonies to such primal fears expressed through the remorseless spread of the urban fabric and the revenge of nature. What Lowry in effect presents is a denial of nature, the terrifying vacuum behind the apparent solidity of buildings and purposeful actions. All man’s structures are temporary, and one day will disappear into the flake-white nothingness from which they are created’ (see Lowry: A Visionary Artist, Salford, 2000, pp. 157-58).

As in all of Lowry’s work there is a sense of separation and isolation, reinforced here by the division of the picture plane, divided by the red railway bridge that runs horizontally across the composition. Maurice Collis explicates that this was not unusual for Lowry, he explains,‘ … It is a common thing to find a barrier in the foreground of his pictures - railings, posts or the like - as if he were looking on from behind a barrier, which he could not pass’ (M. Collis, The Discovery of L.S. Lowry, London, 1951, p. 22). The horizontality of this bridge serves to juxtapose the carefully placed vertical accents of chimneys, spires and the occasional telegraph pole, which brings a balance and symmetry of form to the work.

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