“I’ve a one-track mind; I only deal with poverty. Always with gloom”
LS Lowry is an opinion splitter; to some he’s the greatest painter of working-class, industrial Britain; to others he’s a dreary, ‘Sunday painter’ of matchstick men. Well, naturally, I’d recommend a visit to Tate Britain to make up your own minds if you haven’t already.
The other thing to do, for those of you with iOS or Android phones, is to download the Lowry and the Painting of Modern Life app, which for £1.99 gives you your very own audio guide to accompany you through the six rooms of the exhibition. It has commentaries from the curators, TJ Clark and Anne Wagner, interviews with Lowry, music and video. It’s fantastic to see Tate embracing technology like this and it defintely aids the exhibition experience.
In the 1840s, Baudelaire encouraged painters to paint reality, free from sentiment – “how great and poetic we are”, he wrote, “in our neckties and patent leather boots”.
Wearing uniform factory clothing and cloth caps, Lowry famously provides us with images of crowds in industrial areas – part of the large scale of modern life. We see individuals represented often by singular brushstrokes, part of crowds among William Blake’s dark, satanic mills, headed to football matches, to fairs, to work or to gather round the body of a drowned woman.
Rarely do specks of optimistic blue taint the bleak, grey skies of Salford and Manchester, which he painted for forty years. Great British landscapes are shown ripped apart and ruined by industry; smoke billowing from towering chimneys, rivers and lakes polluted. It’s grim up north.
Lowry and the Painting of Modern Life is at Tate Britain from 26th June 2013 – 20th October 2013
By Edward Lines