The present work was originally purchased from the Lefevre Gallery by Lowry's artist friend, David Carr. The two met in 1943 after Carr had written to Lowry asking whether his painting, On the Sands, Lytham was still for sale. In this letter (quoted in full in S. Rohde, L.S. Lowry A Biography, Salford, 1999, pp. 318-19) Carr wrote about another painting that he had bought previously and how Lowry's work had inspired his own. The two artists arranged to meet and a lifelong friendship was forged. Shelley Rohde writes about their friendship, 'And so early in 1944, in blitzed, blacked-out London, the two artists came together, Carr infecting Lowry with his energy, rushing the elder man up and down New Bond Street, admiring the Old Masters in the gallery windows and venturing inside to inspect the new. They found much in common, not only in their attitudes to their art but in their highly individual concept of humanity. Neither was disappointed in the other. Lowry found Carr so understanding that in November he went so far as to admit in another letter, 'I am so glad you still like that Beach Scene. That is what we all want, you know.' It was rare indeed for him to admit to his own desire for appreciation' (op. cit., p. 319).
Lowry and Carr corresponded regularly and in a letter, dated 8 October 1945 (fig. 1), Lowry writes, 'I thought those drawings might prove interesting to you - How dreadfully crude & ill drawn, weren't they - those very first memory impressions. Do keep them as long as ever you like. Please - they are doing nothing at all here. Astonished you liked those pastel Seascapes - I nearly didn't bother to include them ... You speak of your technique in drawing - I wish, at your age, I had handled paint as well as you. Painting from the minds eye & painting from nature are totally different things in my view'.
This letter may have prompted David Carr to purchase the present work, about which he wrote in the 1966 exhibition catalogue, 'The first sea picture of this type. The artist had intended to paint a sea piece with ships, but found himself unable to put them in the picture. The calm, empty sea expressed the solitude he felt in his own nature. Later pictures of this subject are of the North Sea' (see exhibition catalogue, L.S. Lowry Retrospective Exhibition, Sunderland, Arts Council, Sunderland Art Gallery, 1966, p. 14).
Throughout his life, the sea always held a particular fascination for Lowry. In his youth, holidays were spent at Lytham St Anne's on the Fylde coast at Easter, and at Rhyl, on the North West coast, during the Summer. He commented, 'It's the Battle of Life - the turbulence of the sea - and life's pretty turbulent, isn't it? I am very fond of the sea, of course, I have been fond of the sea all my life: how wonderful it is, yet how terrible it is. But I often think ... what if it suddenly changed its mind and didn't turn the tide? And came straight on? If it didn't stop and came on and on and on and on ... That would be the end of it all' (quoted in J. Spalding, exhibition catalogue, Lowry, Middlesborough, Cleveland Art Gallery, 1987, p. 61).
Michael Holroyd comments, 'The supposed emptiness of these works is misleading. They are not empty, they are full. Full of an activated space and the physical entities of water, earth and atmosphere, always in shift; a space that like time is not in the end fixed by human constraints but occupies its own rhythms and patterns to which man must accommodate himself. Even the most apparently monotonous of his surfaces are on closer inspection ceaselessly in movement; boundaries and edges that separate the elements are ambiguous and blurred ... Within the totality of Lowry's work the seascapes stand as a final coda. Viewed as statements of the human condition, they offer no comprehensive affirmation but are part of a sustained response to the mysteries and profundities of existence, and ultimately they remain as enigmatic and as unknowable as the man responsible for their creation' (see Lowry A Visionary Artist, Salford, 2000, p. 245).