1 More
4 More
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A CORPORATE COLLECTION

The Mill, Early Morning

The Mill, Early Morning
signed and dated 'L S LOWRY 1961' (lower left)
oil on board
18 x 16 in. (45.7 x 40.6 cm.)
Painted in 1961.
with Lefevre Gallery, London.
Acquired by the present owner before 1976.
Exhibition catalogue, L.S. Lowry, R.A., London, Royal Academy, 1976, pp. 28, 87, no. 267, illustrated.
London, Royal Academy, L.S. Lowry, R.A., September - November 1976, no. 267.
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. We will invoice under standard VAT rules and VAT will be charged at 20% on both the hammer price and buyer’s premium and shown separately on our invoice. This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

Brought to you by

Angus Granlund
Angus Granlund Director, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

‘… as I got to the top of the station steps I saw the Acme Spinning Company’s Mill, the huge black framework of rows of yellow-lit windows stood up against the sad, damp-charged afternoon sky. The mill was turning out hundreds of little pinched, black figures, heads bent down, as though to offer the smallest surface to the swirling particles of sodden grit, hurrying across the asphalt, along the mean streets with inexplicable derelict gaps in the rows of houses, past the telegraph poles, homewards to high tea or pub wards, away from the mill and without a backward glance. I watched this scene – which I’d looked at many times without seeing – with rapture’ - L.S. Lowry

L.S. Lowry's mill scenes are dominated by the factory buildings and structures that he knew from his youth, when he made a daily journey to work each day, and experienced the hustle and bustle, the ebb and flow, of a smoky, heavily populated metropolis in which his ‘little pinched black figures’ scurried like human ants across the picture surface. If you go fast-forward from the first examples created from the end of the 1920s until his last works from the early 1970s, the same huddled groups are depicted thronging towards an industrial monument with a sense of rhythmic compulsion. There is a timelessness to Lowry?'s view of the city, even as it changed in the face of the post-war years of regeneration and renewal. Lowry was able to remove the new structures from his vision and continued to find buildings in his art that no longer existed anywhere other than in his own imagination. he rapture of which he spoke created a unique vision of an industrialised North which he could conjure up whenever he chose. Lowry explained, ‘Natural figures would have broken the spell of it, so I made my figures half unreal. Some critics have said that I turned my figures into puppets, as if my aim were to hint at the hard economic necessities that drove them. To say the truth, I was not thinking very much about the people. I did not care for them the way a social reformer does. They are part of a private beauty that haunted me. I loved them and the houses in the same way: as part of a vision’ (Lowry quoted in M. Howard, Lowry, A Visionary Artist, Salford, 2000, p. 123).

Coming from the Mill (The City of Salford, The Lowry) in 1930 was Lowry's first major industrial picture and it set his intention for his art for the rest of his career. In this painting he laid out his subject matter, the inhabitants of his universe, and the structure of his composition, each formed from inspiration that would last him a lifetime. After the Lowry family had moved from the more genteel suburbs of Manchester to Pendlebury, with its mills and factories, to support Robert Lowry's work, his son commented that, ‘I got used to it, and then I got absorbed in it, then I got infatuated with it. Then I began to wonder if anyone had ever done it. Seriously, not one or two, but seriously; and it seemed to me by that time that it was a very fine industrial subject matter. And I couldn’t see anybody at that time who had done it – and nobody had done it, it seemed’ (Lowry quoted from an interview with Hugh Maitland, in J. Spalding and M. Leber, Lowrys City, A Painter and His Locale, Salford, 2000, p. 14). Indeed, Lowry's unique conceit has sealed his reputation, as the critic Mervyn Levy concluded, ‘a vision both big enough in conception, and uniquely enough expressed in style to ensure for the artist a permanent place in the patterns of European Art’ (Painters of Today: L.S. Lowry, London, 1961, p. 23).

In the present work, which has remained in the same collection for half a century, Lowry has painted a work in his most familiar idiom. The upright format emphasises that we are being presented with a portrait of Lowry's muse, the Acme Spinning Mill in early morning, when the klaxon has been sounded and all the workers are thronging towards the mill gates to form an orderly queue to enter. The dark terraced building with the red door frames the composition and towers over the people who stream past, many wearing the same shade of red in their jackets and hats, punctuating the white ground of the street. The buildings jostle with the figures for the viewer's attention, and the curving walls and railings create layers which enable us to gaze into different sections of the composition as we are drawn into the scene that unfolds before us. The heavily overcast sky seems to be filled with smoking chimneys as if the whole city is one melting pot of industry, while creating a mysterious and unnatural universe for our contemplation.

Lowry's cast of characters are varied in execution: in the foreground are the large-scale figures, distinctive individuals in brightly coloured clothing, some wearing hats or carrying bags, and walking with purpose. In the middle distance, the workers are gradually reduced in size as they become fleeting impressions of walking figures, eventually represented by strokes of the brush as they arrive at the mill which seems to swallow them up and absorb them completely. The Mill, Early Morning is a very fine example of one of Lowry’s most important subjects, one that absorbed him from the late 1920s until his death and we understand has not been exhibited publicly in 45 years.

‘An artist can’t produce great art unless he has a philosophy. A man can’t say something unless he has something to say. He can see things that a camera cannot see. A camera is a very wonderful piece of mechanism but an artist has his emotions, he has his feeling and he puts those feelings into any work he is doing. If he feels strongly for his subject he will do it better’ - L.S. Lowry

More from Modern British and Irish Art Evening Sale

View All
View All