Whether Lowry was, in titling this beguiling picture, exercising his dry sene of humour is something we cannot judge. But 'open' and 'empty' can have similar meanings; in this case, however, open most certainly does not mean empty. Even by Lowry's own crowd obsessed standards this is a very crowded picture indeed.
What makes it even more interesting than usual - and thus, yet again, gives the lie to the widely held opinion that Lowry was a naïve - is his perspectival handling of the vast crowd. As the crowd recedes from foreground to middle the figures don't lose anything in terms of detailed differentiation but they do suffer from a most carefully calculated diminution. This makes it, in my experience of Lowry's many masterly crowd scenes, ranging from Cripples (City of Salford) to Going to the Match (Professional Football Association), an almost unique crowd study.
The receding perspective is brilliantly executed and is largely assisted by his placing and handling of the buildings. These would often dominate a painting of this subject matter but here they are painted almost like insubstantial shadows. The factory in the rear centre and the row of houses at centre left have Lowry's usual rock like mass. All the other buildings, the lesser factories, the church, the clock tower, the factory gates to the right of the main building are submerged in a haze of Flake White, here manipulated by brush and palette knife into a subfusc grey, as if the are shrouded in a distant mist which obscures the buildings but has passed over the crowd of people standing out clearly in the foreground. The people in the distance, like the distant buildings, have not only shrunk in perspective but have also become evanescent.
What, at first glance, seems to be a typical, mainstream Lowry staple with all his usual ingredients, slowly morphs into a startlingly subtle and original painting.