Lowry and Chaplin

Just saw this Lowry on Manchester Art Gallery’s FB page:

Their caption reads:

The subject of this painting is the laying of a foundation stone of a new school. Although it was supposed to be a dignified, serious occasion, Lowry found the ceremony pompous and its participants comic. The man laying the foundation stone was a town councillor who liked the painting. However, his suggestion that it be purchased for the council was rejected. The vicar, who is also represented in the painting, objected to it strongly. He apparently visited Lowry and said, ‘You’re no gentleman. I think you should be ashamed of yourself, making fun of a civic ceremony…’ The artist replied, ‘I don’t pretend to be a gentleman, but I do feel I’m entitled to paint what I like when I see it in the open air.’

When I saw this earlier in the year, I was struck by how much it reminded me of the opening scenes Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights.


Currently on display in the Urban Landscapes exhibition.Go and see this- small bit perfectly formed!!!


Some you win, some you lose

In addition to the exhibitions, I’m also looking to visit smaller galleries in search of a certain number of artists I am interested in: Christopher Nevinson, David Bomberg, Paul Nash and Stanley Spencer.Leamington Spa Gallery was my first attempt – they have a Spencer and a Nevinson in their collection. It would be easy to call them to find out if they are on display, but that takes the fun out of this odyssey. So, on the way back from Bedford, I stopped off at the Royal Pump Rooms.

STRIKE 1-no Nevinson or Spencer, which was a shame…


Bicyclettes, Paris -Christopher Nevinson


Cookham Rise-Stanley Spencer









but there was a lovely Vanessa Bell called ‘A Venetian Window’ from 1926:

imageThis was sumptuous in terms of colouring but it was hidden away a little. The card said “her paintings tend to be beautifully composed and often contemplative” and I think this is a perfect example of that. There is something about a window that gives so many artists the opportunity to reveal a perect world and this is no exception.





STRIKE 2: New Walk Art Gallery, Leicester.

Decided to contact this gallery prior to a visit I have planned for next week.  There are two Nevinsons in their collection, Oxford on the Cherwell and One Summer’s Day:

Oxford, On the Cherwell

One Summer's Day

Alas, They are not on display either, so today was a make or break situation in Coventry.


Herbert Museum and Art Gallery has a number of paintings that I would love to see, so would today be more successful…?

One room-and several moments of smiles, sighs and ‘yes!’ moments. Amongst others, there was a lovely Nevinson, a fabulous Nash, a melancholic Lowry and the most gorgeous Bomberg that will get its own post shortly!


Summer in the Downs -Christopher Nevinson


Northleach Church -LS Lowry


The Stackyard -Paul Nash


Evening, Cornwall, Towards St Ives -David Bomberg

The joy of going along with uncertainty of whether or not I will see a certain work of art outweighs the disappointment of the work not being out. Think the next few weeks will be a lot of fun -will she, won’t she?

Lowry – He painted more than matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs

If you are of a certain age, you will remember two men in cloth caps singing about LS Lowry in Mancunian accents and, if like me, they scared the life out of you, you would probably have taken a long time to look at a Lowry painting up close!

Having visited the Lowry Centre in Manchester and the Major and Lowry exhibition in Southport, I decided to give this monograph by Michael Howard a go.  41D5TPCHNPL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Howard gives an excellent account of Lowry’s life alongside his art.  Each chapter covers a different aspect of Lowry’s work and when you see how he moves through the human experience in a way that resonates with some aspect of everyone’s life, you realise that there is more to Lowry than you might think.  Howard begins by saying that Lowry’s works “confirm an understanding of the essential, inescapable and solitary reality of human experience.”  Chapter headings such as ‘The Battle of Life’, ‘The Outcasts’ and ‘The Lonely Landscape’ reflect the melancholy that surrounds so much of Lowry’s work.

Lowry is most famous for a romantised view of the mill towns and industrial landscapes of Manchester and the surrounding areas, but if you explore a little deeper, you can see that there is more to this man than you think. Howard’s book has certainly given me a greater appreciation of Lowry’s works than I had previously held.

His insight into the lives of the people of Lancashire was perceptive.  This 1936 oil, Short Time, Family Discord, is a particularly striking one in terms of revealing the social context of the times.  This is not a warm family environment; the tension is almost palpable.  The father sits at the table in his customary place as head of the household L-S-Lowry-Short-Time-Family-Discord-Interior-1935-large-1173415626 but you start to ask questions as to why he is there at that time of day.  With unemployment increasing at this time, it is likely that he is out of work; his role as the breadwinner is seriously underthreat.  His wife sits with him but there is no food on the table.  The two younger children gather round, oblivious to his failings, but his eldest son has turned his back and is facing the viewer with a defiant look on his face.  There is no glow from the fire and the family are keeping warm as best they can.  Just for a fraction of time, we are completely aware of this family and their misery.

I would thoroughly recommend this book.  Michael Howard guides the reader around the works, never dictating what you should read into them, but he blends Lowry’s own words into the analysis of the paintings.


Lowry and Major in Southport

It’s not often a plan comes together, but today was almost as perfect as you could make it.

The exhibition is in one room and the paintings are almost, but not quite alternated between Lowry and Major.

It was overwhelming to be in the room as so many Majors as I’ve only seen one in the flesh before. If I’m honest, the Lowrys paled into insignificance next to Theo’s large canvases (I’m calling him Theo now!). I spoke with an attendant who thought the same as me. You have to get up close with Lowry to see the detail, but with Theo’s work, you stand back and he comes at you, full pelt!

I could talk all day about the works, but won’t. The first large canvas is ‘Crucifixion at Wigan’. He mainly painted onto hardboard, so you get the texture underneath the oil.

The caption with this has Theo saying “I wish to disturb and extend consciousness and this one is incredibly powerful. The background is full of the telegraph poles and the people walk about without noticing that above them is a crucifix. They are all oblivious to the suffering that is going on above them -perhaps their own worries are too great to consider the plight of the working man as a species.

Another of the large canvases is Sunset at Wigan which I felt continued the narrative with Crucifixion:


The bright yellow sun is vibrant at its core, but becomes muddied as the light infiltrates the industrial landscape. The people seem to be gathering as if waiting for something. An art critic, Mervyn Levy said, “What is superficially ugly in the industrial scene, he has transformed into a pattern of startling and moving beauty.” I quite agree. I could have stayed all day just looking into these paintings.

I had better mention old LS, in case he feels left out. This simple painting, called ‘Discord’, went well with the exhibition.


It shows the way in which isolation can be seen even in a cosy domestic setting. I think that is Lowry’s strength:that he reveals subtleties within a simplistic setting that can make you think further than the traditional view of his ‘matchstalk’ people.

If it is possible to be more in love with Theo after today, I think I’m there! Oh, and if you think he is all serious and melancholy, check out ‘Death and the Devil at Wigan’. Just love the train crossing the scene, oblivious to the forces of evil fighting it out.


Theodore Major – Wigan, England, The World, The Universe

Man and Sun

On a visit to Clark Art in Hale, Manchester, I saw this painting  which brought about a great love of Northern Art.  The size of a wall – this was a spectacular painting that led me to explore more of Theodore Major’s work.

Encompassing so many emotions in one canvas – the bowed figure saturated in a magical light was incredible to see in person and was the only time I actually thought that remortgaging the house would be a good idea.

The artist, Mark Elliot, introduced me to the man through the two documentaries that are now on You Tube.  Theo was an incredible artist whose works effortlessly reveal the inner workings of man.  He once said, “The purpose of art is to find and express an understanding of man’s spiritual existence on earth.”  Man and Sun certainly reveals that to us.

The BBC’s ‘Your Paintings’ site has 12 paintings that really show off this incredible talent.  http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/artists/theodore-major

and they are worth taking the time to explore.

To say I am excited about seeing his work, alongside his friend, LS Lowry, in the flesh next week at The Atkinson in Southport is an understatement – Lowry described his portraits as ‘magnificent and unique’ and who am I to quibble with Mr Lowry?



Two brilliant documentaries that give an insight into the workings of this fantastic curmudgeon!



February Highlights

For one week of this month, I shall mainly be alternating North and South to go to:

Oh yes, and there’s Educating Rita at Liverpool Empire “There must be better songs to sing than this… ” and Oppenheimer at the RSC.

Will be glad to get back to work for a rest 😉

So, won’t make The Whitworth this month, but definitely want to make a day of that one.

Popped out to Birkenhead for a photography exhibition: Behind the Mask http://williamsonartgallery.org

And spent the rest of the day with the Victorians at the Walker. Happy days.