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Lowry and the painting of Modern Life

Learn more about Lowry's ambitions and achievements as a modern artist.

Tate Britain, Level 2 Gallery

26 June - 20 October 2013

Open daily 10.00 - 18.00 (Friday - Sunday until 20.00)

Lowry and the Painting of Modern Life is a major exhibition of urban landscapes by the much loved British painter L S Lowry (1887-1976), and opens at Tate Britain.

This is the first show held by a public institution in London since the artist's death in 1976. It results from an invitation extended to the distinguished art historians TJ Clark and Anne M Wagner to reappraise Lowry for a new and extended audience. The exhibition brings together over ninety works, including Tate's own pictures Coming Out of School 1927 and The Pond 1950 and significant loans from public and private lenders. The show will demonstrate Lowry's ambition and achievement as a modern artist, arguing for his status as Britain's pre-eminent painter of the industrial city and placing him within the context of European art history.

Lowry was unique among British artists in both recognising what the industrial revolution had made of the world and making this rich and varied subject matter central to his entire career. For Lowry modern painting needed a mode of observation capable of representing the remaining public rituals of working class life: football matches and protest marches, evictions and fist-fights, workers going to and from the mill. His growing stature in the contemporary British art world poignantly coincided with rapid social change and the disappearance of the industrialised world that he depicted. Without his pictures, Britain would lack an account in paint of the experiences of the 20th-century working class.

Lowry followed the tradition of the late 19th-century French impressionists and early 20th-century French painters in his desire to keep painting alive by engaging with the life of the city. The exhibition will include works by Vincent van Gogh, Camille Pissarro, Georges Seurat, Adolphe Valette and Maurice Utrillo. The show will reveal what Lowry learned from the strange 'symbolist' townscapes of his French-born teacher at the Manchester School of Art, the late impressionist Adolphe Valette. Appropriately, the exhibition takes its title from TJ Clark's seminal book, The Painting of Modern Life: Paris in the Art of Manet and His Followers 1985.

Lowry and the Painting of Modern Life will bring together the artist's late urban panoramas, where a leap up to 'history painting' size indicates the measure of his final ambition. The big landscapes fall into two groups: the first, from the 1950s, are titled, with intentional generality, Industrial Landscapes. The second series is less well known and was painted in the 1960s in the mining valleys of South Wales, the heartland of the Labour movement.

L S Lowry was born in Stretford, Lancashire. Many of his works depict nearby Salford and surrounding areas including Pendlebury, where he lived and worked for over 40 years. On leaving school in 1904, he began work in Manchester as a clerk with a firm of chartered accountants, studying painting and drawing in the evenings at the Municipal College of Art (1905-15) and at Salford School of Art (1915-25). In 1916, he joined the Pall Mall Property Company as a rent collector and remained there until he retired with a full pension in 1952.

The exhibition is curated by TJ Clark and Anne Wagner, emeritus professors of art history at the University of California, working with Helen Little, Assistant Curator, Tate Britain.


Supported by The Lowry Exhibition Supporters Group

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