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

Church Street, Clitheroe

Laurence Stephen Lowry, R.A. (1887-1976)
Church Street, Clitheroe
signed and dated 'LS. Lowry 1964' (lower left)
oil on canvas
16 x 12 in. (40.6 x 30.5 cm.)
A gift from the artist to Mrs. Prudence Kunzel, and by descent.
Private collection, UK.
Anonymous sale; Bonhams, London, 20 November 2013, lot 25, where purchased by the present owner.
London, Royal Academy, L.S. Lowry R.A., 1887-1976, September - November 1976, no. 293.
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

'Every true artist has been inspired more by the beauty of lines and colour and the relationships between them than by the concrete subject of the picture'
(Piet Mondrian)

'I am a simple man, and I use simple materials: ivory black, vermilion, prussian blue, yellow ochre, flake white and no medium. That's all I've ever used in my paintings. I like oils ... I like a medium you can work into over a period of time'
(L.S. Lowry)

Painted in 1964, the present work depicts the small Lancashire town of Clitheroe. Just to the North of Manchester, this picturesque settlement would have been visited by Lowry who enjoyed travelling out from Mottram to the neighbouring towns and countryside where he would find new people and places to quietly observe for future paintings to be worked up in his studio at a later date.

During the late 1950s and 1960s Lowry’s busy industrial views with crowds seething to and from the factories and mills gave way to single figure oil studies and quieter, less populated landscapes. Church Street in Clitheroe was a subject that he depicted on a number of occasions. The configuration of the people would change but the fundamental structure of the landscape remained unaltered. Viewing these works collectively one begins to understand how Lowry used the landscape as a theatrical device. The open arms of the pavement draw the spectator in, ascending the steeply foreshortened street before admiring the oversized streetlamp on the right and the impressive steeple of St. Mary Magdelene Church to the left. Renowned for his composite urban constructions and the loose topographical accuracy of his paintings this is probably one of the closest depictions of a specific location in Lowry’s oeuvre.

He had no real historical or emotional attachment to the town of Clitheroe therefore one must conclude that this fascination was grounded in the compositional structure that the landscape afforded. The figures that Lowry populates the street with are dwarfed by the main thoroughfare. A man and woman in the centre converse as a dog walker strolls casually by. A single child in the foreground traverses the road while a couple in the distance intently study a shop front or billboard. The safety of the pavement is ignored and the starkness of the street makes us wonder whether in fact any vehicle has ever blemished its surface.

The pure flake white, that Lowry used extensively from the 1920s, spills over the horizon into the sky. The dry scumbled impasto of the paint is continued throughout, drawing the spectator’s attention to the surface as opposed to the subject of the work. There has been no attempt to create depth through tonal variation. In fact the land and sky are only differentiated by a thin black line and indeed the diminishing figures are loosely scaled as are the architectural elements along the foreshortened street. However there is a harmony and serenity that comes from the balance of line and colour in the painting’s construction. Lowry is not attempting to create a technically well-constructed representation of Clitheroe’s Church Street but rather he uses the subject to explore the intricate aesthetics of painting. In the words of Piet Mondrian, he is 'inspired more by the beauty of lines and colour and the relationships between them than by the concrete subject of the picture'.

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