Laurence Stephen Lowry R.A. (British, 1887-1976) Old Dwellings 50.7 x 40.6 cm. (20 x 16 in.)

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Lot 37AR
Laurence Stephen Lowry R.A.
(British, 1887-1976)
Old Dwellings 50.7 x 40.6 cm. (20 x 16 in.)

Sold for £ 495,062 (US$ 615,276) inc. premium
Laurence Stephen Lowry R.A. (British, 1887-1976)
Old Dwellings
signed and dated 'L.S.LOWRY.1961' (lower left)
oil on canvas
50.7 x 40.6 cm. (20 x 16 in.)

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    With Lefevre Gallery, London
    The Lord James of Rusholme
    His Sale; Christie's, London, 14 December 1973, lot 150
    With Crane Kalman Gallery, London, 19 March 1996, where acquired by the present owner
    Private Collection, U.K.

    Exhibited
    London, Crane Kalman Gallery, Christmas Exhibition, December 1984

    'Traders such as stonemasons, blacksmiths, bookbinders and bricklayers were housed here. The Dwellings served the community until they were demolished in 1960' (Judith Sandling & Mike Leber)

    Old Dwellings was painted the same year as Lowry's seventh one-man show in London at Lefevre Gallery, in October 1961. The artist was seventy-three and had been moving away from depicting industrial scenes for some years. They had formed the core subject of his work since the 1920s but had not always been commercially successful. By 1961, figures and groups of people were instead beginning to predominate, although the demand from collectors at Lefevre Gallery had ironically started to swing in favour of the northern industrial scenes with their associated mills and chimneys. Shelley Rohde describes the fervour surrounding Lowry at this time:

    'The astonishing scenes that took place were headlined on the front page of the Daily Herald. On the morning of the private view, the customary hush of the Lefevre Gallery, now moved to Bruton Street, was rudely disturbed by hordes of "cheque-waving admirers of the artist": the dealers were anxious to keep something on their walls to show the public, and would-be buyers were rationed to only one picture each. It was, as the press announced in excited italics, the sort of thing that usually happens to artists only after they are dead. It would seem that one of the major causes of the almost hysterical demand for the long-neglected industrial scenes lay in what was assumed to be the artist's perversity, but which it would be more accurate to call his integrity. Now that final acceptance had at last been achieved, he had, to all intents and purposes, abandoned his subject. The vision had faded and died' (Shelley Rohde, L.S. Lowry, A Biography, The Lowry Press, The Lowry, Salford Quays, 1999, pp. 357-358).

    Despite this, industrial scenes did not vanish altogether from Lowry's output, and Old Dwellings is testament to the artist's ability at still being able to produce these impressive canvases to satisfy at least some of the passionate buyers visiting Bruton Street during the autumn of 1961. Meticulously composed, Old Dwellings re-visits a previous composition Lowry painted in his 1933 oil on panel, Entrance to The Dwellings. The red brick archway joining the two tenement blocks, a motif Lowry used time and again, dominates the canvases and frames the working-class figures going about their daily lives. Depicting the Salford Improved Industrial Dwellings, which were constructed in 1870, Sandling and Leber remark:

    'Traders such as stonemasons, blacksmiths, bookbinders and bricklayers were housed here. The Dwellings served the community until they were demolished in 1960. Constructed in two parallel blocks four storeys high, they contained 62 separate tenements and two shops which were joined by a gateway fitted with iron gates. Lowry's interest focussed on the gates, but he depicted them neither accurately nor consistently. They are fat or thin with tops rounded or straight; they may or may not be topped by a flagpole; even the shape of the archway has been changed, as has the number of stones on top of the gates themselves. Lowry found in this particular gateway an image that proved to be of great consequence, and he used it with subtle differences in a series of paintings and drawings which span almost four decades' (Judith Sandling and Mike Leber, Lowry's City, A Painter and his Locale, The Lowry, Salford, 2000, p.57).

    The first owner of Old Dwellings, The Lord James of Rusholme (1909-1992), played a significant role in educational ideology in post-war Britain. His most high-profile positions were as High Master of Manchester Grammar School (1945-1962) and the first Vice Chancellor of York University (1962-1973). Presumably he purchased the work from Lefevre Gallery shortly after it was painted, whilst he was establishing himself at York. Although, he would likely have familiarised himself with Lowry's work during his time in Manchester. The Daily Telegraph commented in its obituary of The Lord James of Rusholme:

    'His period at Manchester Grammar School between 1945 and 1962 must be counted one of the most notable headmasterships of this century, comparable in terms of contemporary prestige and achievement of – if never in style or ideology – with that of Arnold at Rugby in the 19th century...James advocated a pure meritocracy. Selection at Manchester Grammar School was by competitive examination, with no marks added for wealth or family connections. It was the essence of his philosophy that grammar schools should serve as ladders, giving all levels of society access to the highest places in the land. His High Mastership bore splendid witness to this ambition. In the mid-1950s Manchester Grammar School was attaining up to 45 scholarships every year at Oxford and Cambridge.' (The Daily Telegraph, 18 May 1992).

    In his role at York University he stressed that half of all students should live on campus and housed them in separate colleges that acted as the centres of the university's social and academic life. Furthermore, half of all undergraduates were women, an usual statistic in universities at that time.

    He became a member of the Standing Commission on Museums and Art Galleries and, following his retirement from York in 1973, Chairman of the Royal Fine Art Commission. Two of his published books outlining his ideas on education were, An Essay on the Content of Education (1949) and Education and Leadership (1951). Knighted in 1956, The Lord James of Rusholme was created a life peer in 1959.
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