In 1961, the year that the present work was completed, Mervyn Levy offers a personal insight into how Lowry looked at the time, 'Now at 73, he wears close-cropped, frosty hair ... his attire is invariable; a dark, baggy suit, with black tie and boots. A thin gold watch-chain hangs across his waistcoat. When it is wet, or cold, he wears either an old fawn raincoat, or a dark overcoat. His usual headwear is an ancient cap slapped down like a pancake. Occasionally he pulls over his head a crumpled felt trilby' (see M. Levy, Painters of Today L.S. Lowry, London, 1961, pp. 17, 19).
Despite the temptation to draw an autobiographical association with Lowry and his single, isolated subject in the present work, on this occasion we can do so only in terms of the figure's attire since Lowry was never known to drink alcohol. Mervyn Levy remarks, 'He is a teetotaller, not for any puritanical reasons, but simply because he has never in his life got around to drinking alcohol' (ibid., p. 16).
Shelly Rohde comments, 'On several occasions he told how his great grandfather Jacob, a bootmaker who moved from Belfast to Port Patrick in 1829 and, unable to find work, had eventually 'died of drink' ... It is interesting, in view of these stories and of the metaphorical nudging and winking that accompanied Lowry's references to his Irish heritage, to remember that Lowry was never known to drink alcohol. Not that he disapproved of drinking by others, rather delighting, as an addicted observer of human nature, in watching the effect it had upon them. One of his favourite anecdotes, told to intimates, concerned an eminent critic, a man known to enjoy a drink or three: 'And he said to me, 'Don't ever forget, Mr Lowry, you are a very important man, a great man ...' and he swayed a bit from the effect of all the hot milk he had been drinking.' When asked, as he frequently was, why he never took anything stronger than orange squash (apart from an occasional indulgence in pudding laced with brandy suace - 'I'll have a bit of that excellent gravy, Sir') he would say that, living alone, he feared the temptation to excess should he once begin ... Once, when pressed by new friends who felt handicapped by being unable to tempt him to champagne, he became suitably dramatic: 'Had an uncle - took to drink - it was terrible, terrible' (see S. Rohde, L.S. Lowry, a biography, Salford, 1999, p. 25).
Lowry's inscribed title on the canvas-overlap of the present work showing the inebriated man is the somewhat euphemistic Man Resting. When the Lefevre Gallery sold the work in February 1964, it had become The Drunk. A drawing, which is very close in composition, known as The Drunken Man, (private collection) executed in 1960, is likely to be a preliminary study for the present oil.