Laurence Stephen Lowry R.A. (British, 1887-1976) The red bridge 33 x 30 cm. (13 x 11 3/4 in.)

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Lot 29AR
Laurence Stephen Lowry R.A.
(British, 1887-1976)
The red bridge 33 x 30 cm. (13 x 11 3/4 in.)

Sold for £ 308,750 (US$ 388,686) inc. premium
Laurence Stephen Lowry R.A. (British, 1887-1976)
The red bridge
signed and dated 'L.S. Lowry 1959' (lower right)
oil on panel
33 x 30 cm. (13 x 11 3/4 in.)

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    Private Collection, U.K., since the 1960s

    A quintessential L.S. Lowry urban landscape, The red bridge dating from 1959 follows a composition he painted a year earlier bearing the same title and originally owned by his significant patron Monty Bloom (see sale; Christie's, London, 14 July 1967, Lot 195). The 1958 oil is slightly larger and painted in 'landscape' format, but both pictures use an elevated viewpoint, typical of Lowry's work painted in the late 1950s, with the red bridge positioned in the middle distance.

    An intriguing scene takes place beneath the bridge. A sizeable group of figures, many of which appear to be children, congregate in the middle of a curving road beside a colourful booth-like stand with its blue and white front and pink top. Adjacent to which rests a large four-legged creature, most likely a horse or donkey used to pull it along. Given all this, it is most probably a mobile Punch and Judy show that is attracting the young crowd. Whilst commonly associated with popular seaside towns during the Edwardian era, Punch and Judy performances also took place during the winter in the city environment. Liverpool's Lime Street station regularly staged a performance by the Codman family of Punchmen of 'Professors' from 1860, which only finished in 1957, two years before the present work was executed. And Lowry was already known to like the subject for his painting, having completed an impressive oil in 1943 titled Punch and Judy, formerly in the collection of Geoffrey Bennett.

    Like many of Lowry's paintings dating from the 1950s the scene is mainly a composite construction integrating familiar motifs such as chimneys billowing smoke, a dilapidated fence, factory buildings and a mill wheel. By the 1950s the cotton industry with its plethora of mills in Manchester had been in decline for some decades, and shortly after The red bridge was painted many of the buildings which had facilitated the industry at its height before the Victorian age, were demolished. A reminder of the progress of time and industrial development can be seen on the right side of the composition as a vehicle crosses the bridge. The bridge itself acts as the upper edge of the frame which isolates the hive of activity beneath. The blue fence on the left, spoil heap on the right and the lower edge of the actual painting complete the frame within a frame, a much-loved pictorial device used by Lowry to focus the viewers' attention on the subject at hand. A few figures nevertheless have escaped these boundaries as some loaf around with their dogs on top of the spoil heap and one can be seen rather comically and precariously leaning over the edge, evidently attempting to gain a more successful view of the street show below.

    Despite the industrial nature of The red bridge the painting is infused with a classic Lowry palette, where the chimneys in the hazy background are described using a soft pink and the rising smoke is rendered in delicate sky blue, a far cry from how they would actually have appeared. Underneath these, Lowry's trademark thick white ground has been built up with multiple applications and the edges of the board smudged with ochre. All of this has created a remarkably successful and complex painting which has apparently not been exhibited in public for half a century.
Contacts
Laurence Stephen Lowry R.A. (British, 1887-1976) The red bridge 33 x 30 cm. (13 x 11 3/4 in.)
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