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)

Small Children at the 'Works', Viaduct Gates

Details
LAURENCE STEPHEN LOWRY, R.A. (1887-1976)
Lowry, L.S.
Small Children at the 'Works', Viaduct Gates
signed and dated 'L.S. LOWRY 1959' (lower right)
oil on board
14 x 10 in. (35.5 x 25.4 cm.)
Painted in 1959.
Provenance
Commissioned from the artist by the present owner's grandfather in November 1959, and by descent.

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Lot Essay

By the 1950s, the urban landscape that Lowry knew so well and had painted and drawn so regularly was changing. The regeneration of the deprived areas of the city to make way for improved living conditions for its inhabitants resulted in many of Lowry's favourite buildings and views being destroyed.

Commissioned directly from Lowry in 1959 by the artist’s friend – businessman, co-cricket lover, and art collector Alick Leggat – the subject of this painting is Leggat’s Textino chemical factory in Viaduct Street, Ardwick, Manchester. A business established after working for the Widnes Soap Company, Leggat had been known to comment, ‘If you can’t make money selling stuff to get clean in Manchester, you’ll never make money’. Leggat inscribed on the back of the present work, ‘Purchased from the artist November 1959 (A commission) inspired by the entry at the side of my works Viaduct St. Manchester 12. Mr. Lowry painted this on his own initiative along with the factory picture Viaduct St. works. Now replaced with a housing estate. AJL 20/11/59’. Like the present work, this inscription is a careful observation of the changes Salford was undergoing in the post-war period. Changing to become more suited to the living conditions of the newer generations, the old tenements and Victorian buildings that Lowry had assiduously depicted over many decades of walking and sketching in the streets of the city, began to disappear.

The negative spaces capture an encroaching sense of absence, an effect enhanced by the painting’s dwindling atmospheric perspectives. Lowry makes dynamic use of the subject’s challenging split verticality: an alley follows a straight through line to the horizon, its inhabitants diminishing in size as it goes, while the main street (conspicuously unpeopled), winds with a gentle camber up a hill – affording a glimpse through the factory gates in the distance. Industrial chimneys smear the flake white sky with red and grey, and draw the eye around the curve of the road into the painting’s upper right corner. There is an architectural attentiveness to this composition reminiscent of some of Lowry’s renaissance-esque church sketches. The recessing facades, fading side-streets, and vertical composition of the 1956 Christ Church, Salford demonstrates Lowry’s keen eye for meticulous draughtsmanship which carries over to the narrow inner-city streets of Small Children at the 'Works', Viaduct Gates. The figures, as is a trend within this period of Lowry’s oeuvre, take on more of the piece’s focus: the children pause in play amid the industrial landscape to observe the viewer, and the hunched woman strides onwards, unmoved.

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