Caroline went to
Salford: this is what she saw there.
and you think of football, and factories. In fact, there is a thriving arts and
cultural scene in Manchester ,
and echoing a global trend in docklands redevelopment there has been the recent
construction of a major arts and entertainment complex in Salford Quays.
The complex, located in an area long considered one of the bleakest in
Manchester, has been named the Lowry
Centre, after one of Salford’s favourite sons,
the artist Laurence Stephen (LS) Lowry. As well as theatres, concert
halls and restaurants, the is home to an
excellent collection of local and contemporary art including a comprehensive
permanent collection of paintings by LS Lowry. Lowry
To be honest, I hadn’t heard of Lowry until moving to
, where he is
very well known as one of their most famous local artists. My friend Gordon had
been a fan of his work for some time, and when he came up north to visit me, he
insisted we take a trip to the Lowry Gallery. Manchester
“Matchstick men!” Gordon kept singing from the back of the minicab all the way to Salford Quays, “...and matchstick cats and dogs!” – this had been a hit song by the duo Brian Burke and Michael Colman, commemorating the style of LS Lowry after his death in the late 1970s.
Salford: football and factories
Lowry was born in 1887 and was a prolific painter of life in
Salford all his adult life. Lowry’s
interest in the urban and industrial landscape captured something quite unique.
His signature “matchstick men” (marching to work in the factory, or gathered at
the football ground) are indeed simplistic but in their sheer numbers make up a
crowd heaving with life and movement.
One of his most famous paintings, Going to The Match, sold for 1.9 million pounds.
|Going To The Match|
What I found quite amazing was the way in which Lowry’s paintings of crowds or busy streets appear to give you a distance and vantage point that Lowry could never have had except for in his imagination.
Lowry’s father had emigrated from
, and as a young man, Lowry
worked as a clerk with a firm of accountants while attending the Municipal
College of Art. He lived with his parents, and was to continue doing so for
nearly forty years until the death of his mother. Ireland
Despite painting in
Manchester almost exclusively, Lowry
was a much celebrated British artist during his lifetime and received numerous
honours (including election to the Royal
Academy) for his contribution to
recording of life in the industrial northwest of . England
Lowry’s work is incredibly evocative of working class life in the industrial northwest, and the Lowry Centre Gallery strives to show this, with big windows all through the complex that look out onto chimneystacks and grey brick buildings that inevitably mirror an equally grey sky. All around you is Lowryland.
Although best known for
Salford scenes of life and
labour under dreary skies, I was also impressed by Lowry’s portraiture. He
painted his subjects with a warmth that is obvious. There are many portraits
that feature the recognisable face of a certain woman. As Lowry was never
married, her identity is something of mystery – some suggest she was his mother
(there have also been suggestions of an Oedipal obsession). Others suggest she
was Carol-Ann Lowry, a girl who had written to him, excited when she found out
she shared a name with a famous artist. They remained friends for years, and
when Lowry died, he left his estate to her.
One of the paintings I liked the most was one called “The Bedroom”, painted at the his parents’ house where Lowry lived almost all his life, and for much of that with his bed ridden mother. The painting reminds me so much of that famous painting of Van Gogh’s bedroom in
. The surroundings are simple,
functional, sufficient – the unadorned surroundings of a man who lived alone
after his mother’s death and dedicated himself to his art. Arles
In retrospect, the work of LS Lowry is a record of the end of the industrial revolution in
as well as a record of the living spirit of : factories, and football and a
rich cultural life. Manchester
The Lowry Centre is well worth a visit, and you can read more about it as well as more about the life of LS Lowry here http://www.thelowry.com/