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 Laurence Stephen Lowry  (1887 - 1976)

About: Laurence Stephen Lowry


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Lived/Active: United Kingdom/England      Known for: naive genre, figure, street and industrial scene painting

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BIOGRAPHY for Laurence Lowry
1887 (Stretford, England)
1976 (Glossop, England)

United Kingdom/England

Self portrait - Self-portrait

Often Known For
naive genre, figure, street and industrial scene painting

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

An English born artist, Laurence Lowry became well known in northern England during his lifetime and did many drawings and paintings reflecting his native region around the city of Manchester.  Some of his works are town scenes of his birthplace, Stretford, and of Pendlebury, where he lived and had his studio for over 30 years.  A focus for him was the lives of people in industrial settings such as Coming from the Mill (1930) and Industrial Landscape (1955).  Often his drawings and paintings conveyed no sense of weather or geographic setting beyond the immediate scene.

He often drew and painted bustling city life with 'matchstick men', a name applied to his hastily drawn figures.  Some of his images, however, suggested mystery and foreboding and quiet, such as landscapes with no sign of human activity. It is possible that the tone of these paintings and drawings related to his childhood, which was unhappy because of his loneliness and lack of social skills, likely tied to the oppression of his domineering, controlling mother, who manipulated those around her by selective bouts of illness. 

His father died in 1932, leaving the family much in debt and leaving the son with the care of the mother until her death in 1939.   During this time, Lowry was able only to paint at night, from 10:00 PM to 2:00 AM, after she had gone to sleep.  After she died, he suffered much depression, and purchased a home in Manchester that he was not fond of but where he lived for 30 years until his death.

He never married, although he had lady friends and some other close friends, but was generally reclusive and asserted that he had lived primarily for his mother, and that all he wanted was reinforcement from her, something she seldom provided.  Achieving fame for his artwork, he was resentful of strangers intruding upon his privacy.  Reportedly he kept a suitcase by his front door so that he could use the excuse that he was leaving on a trip if someone he did not wish to see rang the doorbell.  However, he related that he quit the practice, when one of the 'strangers' insisted on taking him to the train station.

During World War II, he served as a war artist, and in 1953, received the appointment of Official Artist at the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.  In the 1950s, he had a job as Chief Cashier for the Pall Mall Property Company, whose personnel in charge allowed him time off for painting and exhibitions of his work.  However, he kept the fact secret that he had a job, wanting people to think he was a full time artist.  Lowry's style was naive, and art professionals are not in agreement as to whether he was in fact an artist without much training or whether the naive style was deliberate.

He spent many holidays at Seaburn, Tyne & Wear on the coast of northeast England, and this area became a source of his beach and marine scenes.  He also traveled to visit friends in Cumbria and Southhampton.

On February 23, 1976, he died at age 88 of pneumonia in a hospital in Glossop.  He was buried in Manchester next to his parents.  He left his considerable estate to Carol Ann Lowry, a girl not related to him but one with artistic talent whom he encouraged from the time she was age 13.

The town of Salford Quays, near Manchester, which is also a setting for many of his works, has an art gallery in The Lowry Centre called the Lowry Gallery, dedicated to artworks by Laurence Lowry.  Among his honors were the Freedom of the City of Salford Award.


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