'The loneliness of Lowry doesn't make one shiver. It exults in the vastness of our surroundings'
(Sir John Betjeman, quoted in The Loneliness of Lowry, exhibition catalogue, Abbott Hall Art Gallery, Kendal, 2010, p. 17)
After his retirement from the Pall Mall Property Company at the age of 65 in 1952, Lowry was able to travel more extensively to other parts of the British Isles. Coastlines and landscapes in the North East, Wales and Scotland became regular subjects in his work, and they allowed him to focus on his fascination for the sea. Lowry had painted yachts and boats from his earliest years, and these were the only subjects of which his mother had approved: her favourite picture, Sailing boats, painted in 1930, hung at his home until his death. At first the objects of his interest were the lively waters and bobbing yachts that he saw on family holidays at Lytham St Anne's or in North Wales. Later, he began to paint lakeland scenes with long empty horizons which roll out beyond into an unfathomable distance. The lakes appear tranquil but deep and sombre. By the time of his retirement, he returned to the sea again but the boats, and by now heavy shipping, begin to have a more idiosyncratic quality. Lowry's friend and dealer, Andras Kalman, commented that, 'I don't think that anyone since Turner looked at the sea with such an original eye' (see exhibition catalogue, Abbott Hall Art Gallery, Kendal, 2010, p. 13).
As Michael Howard has commented, 'The heavy ships that populate Lowry's later paintings and drawings move through the implacable waters with no apparent sign of human involvement: there is never a glimpse of figures working the vessels, which seem to move of their own mysterious accord ... Lowry perfectly captures the dense black silhouette of the merchant vessel etched against the brilliant crystalline light. Such jewel-like painting and amongst the most moving of his productions ... Ships and boats are more than mere carriers of cargo, they are loaded with a host of romantic associations encapsulating our understanding of life and death. Accordingly, at least one commentator has compared Lowry's painted vessels with Charon's barque that in Greek mythology and in Dante's Inferno takes the souls of the dead across the River Styx ... Lowry stated on many occasions that he inscribed himself into his pictures, and never more so than in these works. His ships, monuments and rocky outcrops surrounded by the sea are expressions of the pathetic fallacy, whereby inanimate objects are apportioned human attributes, and they feature in different guises in all of Lowry's work ... Such works may be powerful or picturesque, disturbing or entertaining in turn. But whether humorous in intent or deadly serious, they are united as expressions of the artist imposing his will upon a recalcitrant nature' (L.S. Lowry, A Visionary Artist, Salford, 2000, pp. 234-236).
Lady Vansittart had purchased a number of works by L.S. Lowry from his London dealer, Lefevre Gallery, over a period of twenty years. Each of these works, Children Playing, Old Road, Failsworth, 1957; A Footbridge, 1944; and The Empty House, 1958, together with the present work, have been offered in these Rooms over the last decade.