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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
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
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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