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

Early Morning

Laurence Stephen Lowry, R.A. (1887-1976)
Early Morning
signed and dated 'L.S. Lowry 1954' (lower right)
oil on canvas
18 x 24 in. (45.8 x 61 cm.)
Sold with a copy of The Uses of Literacy by Richard Hoggart, published by Penguin Books in 1957.
with Leicester Galleries, London, 1958, where purchased by Penguin Books.
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 3 December 1998, lot 73.
with Richard Green Gallery, London.
with Henry Donn Galleries, Manchester, where purchased by the present owners.
R. Hoggart, The Uses of Literacy, Harmondsworth, 1957, illustrated on the cover.
Exhibition catalogue, L S Lowry 1887-1976, London, Richard Green Gallery, 2000, no. 3, illustrated.
J. Sandling and M. Leber, Lowry's City A Painter and his Locale, Salford, 2000, p. 58, illustrated
T.J. Clark and A.M. Wagner (ed.), Lowry and the Painting of Modern Life, London, 2013, no. 109, illustrated.
London, Lefevre Gallery, Recent paintings by LS Lowry, March - April 1956, no. 25.
London, Richard Green Gallery, L S Lowry 1887-1976, April 2000, no. 3.
London, Tate Gallery, Lowry and the Painting of Modern Life, June - October 2013, not numbered.
Salford, The Lowry, on loan 2000-2014.

Brought to you by

Anne Haasjes
Anne Haasjes

Lot Essay

In the present work, Lowry's fascination with the architecture of the city is demonstrated as his composition is dominated by the archway through which his figures pass. The enormity of the mills and offices beyond, with their countless windows and tall, smoking chimneys, seek to reduce the figures to a teeming mass of humanity, compelled by the surge of the crowd to move forward with energy and purpose. The city workers are defined by this world but their free flowing mass is juxtaposed with the dominant, rigid structures that loom around them. This sense of claustrophobic confinement is further enhanced by the artist's viewpoint looking down on the scene below.

For Lowry the structure that dominates this composition was a familiar motif, often used as a factory gate. The original archway was part of the Improved Salford Industrial Dwellings, also known as the Greengate Industrial Dwellings, built in 1870 to provide reasonable living conditions for tradesman and manual workers, such as stonemasons, blacksmiths and bricklayers. They inhabited two four-storey blocks comprising 62 tenements which were linked by an elaborate, tiered gateway fitted with iron gates. The Dwellings were demolished in 1960 and they feature frequently in paintings and drawings over four decades.

The shape of these gates changed frequently in Lowry’s work, sometimes more accurately depicted, as in the present work, but more often morphed into the domed gateway to Peel Park, or even with a flag pole on top, depending on how industrialised the cityscape around the gates. In the present work the position of the gateway serves to separates the viewer from the action of the scene, as well as to emphasise the hustle and bustle of city life that the onlooker observes beyond it.

'Lowry was fascinated by buildings. For him they evoked the lives of their occupants. He felt that 'a country landscape is fine without people, but an industrial set without people is an empty shell. A street is not a street without people... it is as dead as mutton'. In the 1920s he frequently drew in Salford: 'There were special parts I liked, a bit Georgian, older than the rest. My favourite places were the houses built around factories. They just attracted me more than the others.' Revisiting Orsdall Lane in the 1960s Lowry remembered that as he had drawn in front of the dwelling, 'scores of little kids who hadn't had a wash for weeks would come and stand around me. And there was a niff, too.' (see Tate website).


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