I could probably write a blog post on each of the paintings at the Tate Britain’s new LS Lowry exhibition, they’re interesting, easy to look at, easy to understand and take you back to a different era, albeit seen through a very narrow lens, with lots of repetition.
Lowry’s paintings of working class life in Salford and Manchester adorn six galleries at Tate Britain, with a few additions from other artists as points of reference (including Van Gogh, Pissaro and Valette). His tall thin figures make their way across the factory filled landscape, bodies leaning forward, heads bowed, going to work, leaving work, hanging outside a mill. Even the figures in Going to the Match strike the same pose, you don’t see the excitement of match day, but a football stadium as part of the working class landscape, not an escape from it.
You do see more fun and games in other paintings, like in Lancashire Fair: Good Friday Daisy Nook the people are larger, there’s more movement and life, with children balloons and flags. And in VE Day the houses look clean and tidy, even the smoke looks clean and street parties and bunting dominate.
But its the factories and industrial landscapes that always catch your attention, such as A Manufacturing Town which is a dark, smokey and atmospheric view over terraced houses, billowing chimneys and church steeples. At one point you see a series of paintings titled People Going To Work, Returning To Work, Coming Home From The Mill, Outside The Mill, which neatly sums up Lowry’s subjects and what everyone going to this exhibition is there to see.
I never really bought into the criticisms of Lowry or the debate about whether he is a great artist or not – his paintings are so good to look at it never seemed important. But there are a few points in this exhibition where some dodgy paintwork did stand out for me, whether its the face on a lady staring out that just looks odd, or the awkward painting of Piccadilly Circus, which according to the Tate, recently sold for £5.6m and is reproduced en masse in the gift shop, so must be widely appreciated, but which I thought looked like an undergraduate project.
There are a lot of Lowry paintings on display here, and a lot of people looking at them, which means its a great exhibition with enough paintings for everyone to enjoy!
The exhibition is on at Tate Britain until 20 October 2013