On 4 May 1909 Lowry and his parents, Robert and Elizabeth, moved from Manchester's affluent Victoria Park to 117 Station Road, Pendlebury, a four-bedroomed, four-storey Victorian semi-detached villa in the countryside beyond the city. The move was instigated for financial reasons and the family hated the new surroundings and their loss of social standing. Here Elizabeth Lowry began to withdraw gradually from society into the bed-ridden invalid that she would become, eventually requiring her long-suffering son to nurse her day and night.
However, despite these inauspicious circumstances, Lowry later acknowledged the move to Pendlebury as the source of his artistic inspiration, 'I had lived in the residential side of Manchester - a very nice residential side - and then I went to live in Pendlebury - one of the most industrial villages in the countryside mid-way between Manchester and Bolton ... Vaguely in my mind I suppose pictures were forming, and then for about thirty-odd years after that I did nothing but industrial pictures' (see S. Rohde, L.S. Lowry A Biography, Salford, 1999, pp. 81-86). In an interview with Hugh Maitland, Lowry remarked of Pendlebury, his home for forty years, 'at first I disliked it, and then after about a year or so I got used to it, and then I got absorbed by it, then I got infatuated with it ... it seemed to me by that time .. very fine industrial subject matter' (see J. Sandling and M. Leber, Lowry's City: A Painter and his Locale, Salford, 2000, p. 14).
In the present work, painted in 1947, Lowry features St. Mary's Church, built in 1859 and demolished in 1964, which stood opposite Victoria Park on the corner of Swinton Hall Road, near the Albion Mill. Lowry's first known topographical sketch from this spot dates from 1913, and it was a subject that the artist returned to continually throughout his career, and until the 1960s. The alley way from the top of Temple Drive, which led down past the church and Albion Mill, is populated by Lowry's cast of characters. In the present example, small groups comprising a woman and her dog, and a mother and her child, are wandering down the alley way towards the viewer; while in other examples, the street can be a busy and heavily populated thoroughfare. In a notable example from 1960, Man Walking, only a solitary figure is present and the church has been replaced by a smoking chimney (private collection; sold in these Rooms, 25 June 2015, lot 23). In this example, as in a number of works of this important subject, the artist used his favourite landmarks and cast of characters to indicate a shift in the industrial landscape and its population. As the city responded to the needs of the post-war population and buildings were demolished, Lowry's characters dwell in an increasingly pared down landscape with barren trees and brooding skies.
The Frederick Forsyth's collection of works by L.S. Lowry comprised thirteen paintings and was sold in these Rooms on 8 June 2001. The popular author had collected the pictures over a number of years and had concentrated on street scenes and figures subjects from the later period of the artist's output. In the introduction to his collection in the auction catalogue, Frederick Forsyth remarked of the figures in these works, 'they are alive with the concerns of every day, but caught and locked into perpetuity by Lowry's gentle eye. And always the spindle-legged dogs of exactly the same type running among them'.