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Oil on panel
21 x 15½ ins (53.34 x 39.37 cms)
Signed and dated.
There is alabel on the back signed "L.S.Lowry, 117, Station Road, Pendlebury."
Price on application
The Artist, 2 August 1944
With The Lefevre Gallery, London, 27 April 1946, where acquired by
With T & R Annan & Sons, Glasgow, where acquired by the family of the previous owner
Thence by descent
Acquired by the previous owner in 2002
Private Collection, U.K.
Salford, Museum & Art Gallery, Paintings and Drawings by Laurence S. Lowry R.B.A., 1-31 October 1941, cat.no.7 (as The Entrance to the Dwellings)
Sunderland, Art Gallery, Industrial Street Scenes etc by Lawrence [sic] S. Lowry R.B.A., 21 September-13 October 1942, cat.no.5
Painted at a time when Lowry's career as an artist began to gain traction, Entrance to the Dwellings is an accomplished and characterful oil from 1933. The year before, now already in his mid-40s, Lowry had shown with the Manchester Academy and the following year he exhibited with the Royal Society of British Artists, which resulted in 1934 with him being elected a member. Furthermore, at this time his pictures began to appear in exhibitions across northern England. Rochdale, Southport, Bradford and Oldham all displayed his work and the latter purchased The Procession for £16 in 1934. Both The Scottish Academy and Salford Art Gallery also acquired paintings the same year.
When considering Entrance to the Dwellings it becomes apparent why institutions and galleries started to recognise his talents and commercial appeal at this particular time. The pictures started to incorporate heavier and more intricately worked impasto, as if greater time and effort was being spent on them. The thick paint is built up layer on layer in a variety of differing but subtle colours, beginning with white and then ochre, which is then intricately scraped into to describe various details throughout the composition. Architectural features, railings and the paving of the street have all been enhanced using this effective technique.
Depicting the Salford Improved Industrial Dwellings, which were constructed in 1870. 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 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 four decades.
The location had captured the artist's attention two years before Entrance to the Dwellings was painted, no doubt owing to the concentration of working class folk who resided there. A delightful and spontaneous little pencil drawing, The Gateway dating from 1931 hints at the bigger finished painting which was to follow in 1933. Although the majority of figures are omitted it is just possible to make out the two men embroiled in a physical altercation through the archway which forms the playful focal point of the present lot. Clearly Lowry viewed this specific gateway with the four storey buildings flanking it as deeply symbolic of the urban, industrial environment he frequented. In the finished pencil drawing from 1953, Factory gate we see the motif recurring two decades later. However, as was typical with Lowry, its shape has been altered, in this instance elongated.
Meticulously composed, Entrance to the Dwellings uses an upright picture format with a receding street populated with people and framed by buildings, which was a favourite of the artist at this time. The Organ Grinder of 1934 (Manchester City Art Gallery), The Street Brawl (1933) and An Old Street (1932) are all fundamentally similar in design. Figures face us, turn their backs on us, chat with one another, walk in profile or peer out from windows above so that the viewer's eye is constantly kept stimulated. They represent the gritty reality of inner city northern England during the inter-war period and were the essence of Lowry's art. Michael Howard's insight is especially interesting, 'Lowry's figures go to work, leave work or are out of work, but they are never shown at work. He never depicted the activities inside the mills, factories and mines he painted so many times. For him, the proletariat he painted were not the heralds of some future age of equality, but instead they were presented as stoically accepting the traditional working-class values of continance and forbearance common in the years before the First World War. (Michael Howard, Lowry, A Visionary Artist, Lowry Press, Salford, 2000, p.128).
'The gateway was an important part of Lowry's iconography. It often occurs in his industrial landscapes.' (Judith Sandling and Mike Leber, Lowry's City, a Painter and his Locale, Lowry Press, Salford, 2000, p.57).
An interesting aspect of this painting is that it was painted at 117, Station Road, Pendlebury and there is a hand-written label with Lowry's signature and the address on the back of the painting. The film "Mrs Lowry & Son" starring Timothy Spall and Vanessa Redgrave was set in this house. The back of the painting is fascinating, as the rear of the board has been painted over. Lowry was not succesfull in 1933 so he re-used materials, therefore it is highly likey that there is another painting underneath the overpaint. Another label on the back shows, that when it eventually did sell at the Lefevre Gallery in London, it sold for £45!
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