Lowry & The Pre-Raphaelites – A Tale of Two Lowry’s

It’s a given that when visiting Manchester Art Gallery the Lowry and Valette room is taken en route.

It’s also quite sad in a way that the works are, by me, almost taken for granted. Ask any Mancunian to name a Manchester artist and it’s odds on that Lowry will be the first and most obvious.

The exhibition which opened at the The Lowry, Salford Quays last week explores the man and the enigma. I know Lowry’s work – as we all do – but his fascination and purchase of Pre-Raphaelite works came as a complete surprise to me.

The permanent Lowry exhibition at The Lowry has been extended, re-worked and re-planned, with emphasis on Pre-Raphaelite works which LS himself owned.

Bought shrewdly by this Salford born boy (who, despite his success worked until his 65th birthday for the Pall Mall Property Company) at a time when Pre-Raphaelite works were unfashionable. Nonetheless his purchases were in the many thousands of pounds. Again the enigma.

His paintings always lacked the charged sexuality prevalent in Pre-Raphaelite works and so artistic influences are difficult to pin down. Lowry was lonely, but apparently gregarious. He never married and in later years stated. ‘Had I not been so lonely, none of my work would have happened. I should not have done what I’ve done or seen the way I saw things.’

The exhibition also includes panels showing Ford Madox Brown’s dramatic murals at the Manchester Town Hall, perhaps more akin to the teemingly populated landscapes that we always associate with Lowry. The new exhibition has a museum, rather than a gallery feel, but that is successful in telling a story of the man and the times.

It includes portraits of Ann, stylised and stark visions of a woman who Lowry painted repeatedly, but who didn’t exist in reality…other than in Lowry’s mind… plus self-portraits.

I am presuming (or maybe assuming) self-portraits, although these are always attributed as portraits of a man or a young boy. Two pictured here are ‘Head of a Boy,’ 1960 from the permanent collection at the Manchester Art Gallery and Head of a Man, painted in 1938, part of The Lowry exhibition.

The two works which I found most haunting were landscapes. Not the stick man genre; one a stark, hilly landscape and the other a church steeple as abstracted, composed and stripped down as it could possibly be.

But my overall favourite is a simple 1959 sketch of a wide-eyed young man wearing a cap. Perhaps a ‘retrospective’ self-portrait. Perhaps not.

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Lowry & The Pre-Raphaelites

Venue: The Lowry, Salford
Date: Runs until February 24th

More Info

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The Lowry, Pier 8, The Quays, Salford M50 3AZ

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