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LAURENCE STEPHEN LOWRY, R.A. (1887-1976)
LAURENCE STEPHEN LOWRY, R.A. (1887-1976)
LAURENCE STEPHEN LOWRY, R.A. (1887-1976)
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LAURENCE STEPHEN LOWRY, R.A. (1887-1976)
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM THE ESTATES OF L.S. LOWRY AND THE LATE CAROL ANN LOWRY
LAURENCE STEPHEN LOWRY, R.A. (1887-1976)

Head of a Boy

Details
LAURENCE STEPHEN LOWRY, R.A. (1887-1976)
Head of a Boy
signed and dated 'L S LOWRY 1962' (lower left)
oil on canvas
20 x 16 in. (50.8 x 40.6 cm.)
Painted in 1962.
Provenance
A gift from L.S. Lowry to Carol Ann Lowry.
Exhibited
Salford, The Lowry, on long term loan.
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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Angus Granlund
Angus Granlund Modern British & Irish Art

Lot Essay

Staring wide-eyed out of the canvas, Head of a Boy, 1962 marks a distinctive period in Lowry’s work when he became consumed by painting desolate single figures. The solitary figures of the 1960s can be seen to follow on from the dark and melancholic portraits of the mid-1930s, which marked a period of great emotional turmoil for the artist. Shelley Rohde’s describes, ‘… In those years … came new savage pictures, born of the distress that was for seven years an inescapable feature of his daily life; paintings of gaunt men, with gaunt faces, their features stark and staring, infinitely disturbing in the anguish of their eyes’ (S. Rohde, L.S. Lowry A Biography, Salford, 1999, p. 204).

Head of a Boy, shows a young man, set in a unknown bleak world, the enlivened dark blue expressionistic background reminiscent of artists such as Edvard Munch. Smartly dressed in a jacket and tie, he echoes Max Beckmann’s, Self Portrait on Yellow Ground with Cigarette, circa 1923 (Museum of Modern Art, New York), but is far more haunting. Staring out at the viewer, there is an intensity in his face, highlighted by his stark white complexion, his striking features, that Lowry has delineated in dark black outlines, and the blood red of his lips and the inner of his eyes, which is off-set by the rich scumbled blue of the background. He can be seen as a quasi-self portrait of the artist, in gleams of his physical attributes, as well psychologically, the emotions of the artist, resonating in every mark of his brushstroke. There is a rawness to this work, which speaks of the emotional vulnerability of the artist. The energy in the painting, so powerful, it leaves the viewer stunned, yet unable to look away.

In February 1932, Lowry’s father Robert Stephen McAll Lowry died suddenly of pneumonia, leaving behind his bed-bound ‘invalid’ wife Elizabeth and his only son Laurence, who became his mother’s sole carer and the unwilling proprietor of his father’s extensive debts - which had been successfully hidden from the family for over a decade. Rohde’s describes, ‘The event [of his father’s death], announced the next morning in the Manchester Guardian, was to change Lowry’s life. His mother, now seventy-three, took to her bed and there she remained for the next seven and a half years totally dependent, physically and emotionally, upon her only son. The burden of her care was willingly undertaken and dutifully performed, but in the long years that followed it was to drive him to the brink of derangement’ (S. Rohde, ibid., p. 194). Given Lowry’s full-time employment with the Pall Mall Property Company in Manchester, this left only night and the early hours of the morning for him to paint. Exhausted, isolated and grief-stricken, Lowry’s work from this period is arguably the darkest in his oeuvre and yet also the most human. Lowry admitted, years later, to his friend and patron Monty Bloom, ‘I think I reflected myself in those pictures. That was the most difficult period of my life. It was alright when he was alive, but after that it was very difficult because she was very exacting. I was tied to my mother. She was bedfast. In 1932 to 1939 I was just letting off steam’ (L.S. Lowry, quoted in ibid., p. 204).

In the early 1960s, Lowry began to move away from the industrial scenes, which had engrossed him the last few decades and turned once again to the figure paintings, which had preoccupied him in the 1930s. Immersing himself in painting single isolated figures, couples, or groups of five or six people at a time, depicting ‘often tragic individuals having abandoned the industrial community that had created them’ (S. Rohde, ibid., p. 140). This sharp artistic diversion, was to prove a disappointment to his dealers and the public, who after neglecting his ‘mill scenes’ for so long, now clamoured to get their hands on these sought-after paintings. This was revealed in the queues of revellers, who lined Bruton Street eagerly awaiting the private view of Lowry’s 7th one-man-show at the Lefevre Gallery, London in 1961, and the number of requests thereafter. Lowry delightedly recalled, ‘In London all they want now are pictures of little figures on them. Well there are no little figures on them so they’ll have to do without. It’s very sad. People write, you know and say “I’d like a mill scene” and I write back and say: “I can’t do it, and it wouldn’t be any good if I did”’ (L.S. Lowry, quoted in T.G. Rosenthal, L.S. Lowry: The Art and the Artist, Norwich, 2010, p. 139). Lowry had never been a commercial painter, and was not driven by fame or money, only his mother’s approval (which he never received) and what he in his heart desired to paint.

At the time these single figure paintings proved to be largely unpopular, with his macabre figures proving to be too challenging for some. Lowry, fiercely defended these works, stating: ‘I think that this is my best period. I think I am saying more, going deeper into life than I did’ (L.S. Lowry, quoted in M. Howard, Lowry: A Visionary Artist, Salford, 2000, p. 201). One person with whom they struck an accord was the Welsh businessman Monty Bloom, who he met at Andras Kalman’s galley in London. Bloom became an avid collector of these figure paintings (almost to obsession), a close friend and one of Lowry’s most significant patrons. By the 1960s he had 60 Lowry’s on his walls with 40 more in storage, and by the 1970s he owned the largest collection of Lowry’s work in the country. Shelley Rohde’s records a pivotal moment in their relationship, ‘When they arrived at ‘The Elms’, Lowry ushered Bloom into the workroom and produced a large industrial … Bloom liked it very much indeed; but as his gaze wandered round the room he saw a mass of separate paintings of single figures that he liked much more. He hardly knew how to tell the artist. “I like the mill scene” he began, “but I think I prefer those …” “I prefer them myself” said Lowry’ (S. Rohde, op. cit., p. 370). Rosenthal describes that this marked a small victory for Lowry, with him finding someone at last to appreciate these works, which he himself so treasured (T.G. Rosenthal, op. cit., p. 145).

In 1962 Frank Constantine, from the Graves Art Gallery in Sheffield, organised a retrospective exhibition of Lowry’s work, of which 39 works of Bloom's were exhibited. These included some of the ‘grotesques’, and was the first time they were shown to the public. Maurice Collis described these works as, ‘solitaries, unable to mix with their fellows and deeply affected by their isolation. They are projections of his moods, of ghosts of himself’ (S. Rohde, op. cit., p. 374). Lowry was immensely proud of the show and went a great number of times. The figure paintings, were amongst those works he cherished most dearly, he stated, ‘I feel more strongly about these people than I ever did about the industrial scene’ (L.S. Lowry, quoted in S. Rohde, op. cit., p. 360). Michael Howard argues that these works perhaps have more resonance with audiences today than those of the time, he comments, ‘These works are now being seen as some of the most potent of his creations, speaking to a present-day public with more authority and pathos then they did to earlier viewers, conditioned as they were by the image of Lowry as a simple intuitive painter of nostalgic aspects of the industrial world’ (M. Howard, op. cit., p. 199).

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