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

Lytham Pier

Laurence Stephen Lowry, R.A. (1887-1976)
Lytham Pier
signed and dated 'L.S. LOWRY 1945' (lower right)
oil on canvas
18 x 24 in. (45.8 x 61 cm.)
with Lefevre Gallery, London.
Sir Frederic Hooper.
Mrs Bernard Vann.
Her sale; Sotheby's, London, 1 May 1968, lot 77.
Anonymous sale; Christie's, London, 12 March 1982, lot 248,.
with Crane Kalman Gallery, where purchased by the late owner, 1982.
M. Levy, The Paintings of L.S. Lowry, London, 1975, no. 67, illustrated.
London, Crane Kalman Gallery, 32 major works by L. S. Lowry, 1887-1976, March - April 1982, ex-catalogue.
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Lot Essay

'It's the battle of life - the turbulence of the sea ... I have been fond of the sea all my life, how wonderful it is, yet how terrible it is'
(L.S. Lowry)

By the late 19th Century, visiting the seaside had become part of the summer routine of working class life in Britain. The hottest weeks of the year would be spent by a local coastline, which would offer the opportunity to escape the hustle and bustle of working life in the cities. Not only would the weather and fresh sea air provide health-giving benefits, but the chance to wind down for a few days would improve people’s sense of wellbeing at a time when the concept of stress was not considered to be a factor of everyday life. Moreover, these sojourns to the seaside reflected an important development in British society. The advent of paid time off for the working man and the formation of holiday savings clubs, or 'going off clubs’ particularly amongst the cotton town workers in Manchester and Liverpool, created a need for holiday resorts, which along with music halls, football and cricket matches, and pubs and social clubs, developed a new leisure industry that would become intrinsic to 20th Century life.

The north west coastline at planned resorts such as Lytham St Anne’s, Southport and Morecambe was widely promoted as providing a haven in which to escape the industrial centres, offering cleaner, fresher air and the chance to relax outdoors; wide beaches and long summer days proving for many people to be an antidote to modern life. The Lowry family were no exception to the summer exodus to the coastline, and Lowry spent many holidays by the sea at Lytham St Anne’s, as well as in the North Wales resort of Rhyl, from the turn of the century, choosing to frequent the more gentrified locations and avoiding overcrowded Blackpool with its pleasure beach and fun fairs. The Fylde landscape around Lytham was an early source of inspiration for pastel and pencil drawings, but nothing captured Lowry’s imagination more than the sunny beaches in which he depicts the sands often packed full of families, with children on bicycles, dogs on leads, and men in full business suits and bowler hats, all vying for the best spot in which to lie down and stare up at the sun, or across the sea.

The promenade at St Anne’s beach is instantly recognisable in the present work. The St Anne’s pier, built in 1885 with a Tudor-style entrance added in 1899, was constructed from cast iron columns with lattice girders and wooden decking. The original construction was 279 metres long and 5.8 metres wide, and included a band kiosk built of glass and iron, with the addition of a Moorish-style pavilion in 1904, and the Floral Hall in 1910 (both structures have now been demolished and the pier was reduced to 180 meters by the late 1970s). Lowry would have known it in its heyday as one of the most popular resorts in the north west, when the construction of the pier was deemed necessary to improve the opportunities for fishing, boating and walking for the many holidaymakers who flocked there every summer. The Floral Hall, a winter garden and concert hall, had a resident orchestra and hosted a busy programme, attracting performers such as Gracie Fields, Russ Conway and George Formby. Situated further down the coast from the lively resort at Blackpool, and on the estuary of the River Ribble, Lytham St Anne’s was considered a more peaceful location for a family holiday.

Painted in 1945, Lowry’s holidaymakers are depicted in a large-figure format as they parade across the picture’s foreground, only fading to minor dots and dashes as they walk along the promenade of the pier in the far distance. The central motif of children standing around a sand dune in which a young girl stands back to showcase a newly-constructed sandcastle, the better to show off her handiwork to an admiring group, recalls the figure groups clustered in July the Seaside (1943, Arts Council Collection). A Punch and Judy tent is also visible on the right hand side of the composition, leading to the water’s edge. Lowry uses a meandering stream of people who move across the picture on a series of levels. Each level provides a focal point for each area of the painting, leading the viewer up through the sands, and onto the peak of the dunes towards the pier, as it stretches out of the composition, and into the estuary beyond. The entrance to the pier provides a central motif to which the viewer is drawn, leading to the seascape, bobbing yachts and light and open skyline which dominate the upper level of the picture’s composition. Everyone appears to be active and engaged in the pleasures of a healthy stroll, giving a sense of purpose and wellbeing to a summer afternoon. The pier is the titular subject of this work but Lowry’s cast of many characters successfully animate this most joyful depiction of the English seaside.

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