sketch in Derwent tinted charcoal
Last week I went to the Lowry exhibition at the Djanogly gallery, Nottinghm University with my class. It was fascinating. I didn't know a lot about Lowry, though I liked his large cityscapes - we have a very good one in the gallery here.
What I hadn't seen before were paintings like this one, a self portrait, done when his mother was dying - it's uncomfortable - the grief, the lack of sleep, the battling on with stiff-upper-lip - it's all there in bleak uncompromising detail.
The text next to paintings and the catalogue (I couldn't resist, I bought one, the colour repro and quality is excellent) were very good, setting the scene - the wars, the bombsites, the area suffered devastating damage, explaining the open areas in a densely built industrial area of the city. Apparently some remained right up to the 1970's. The Depression, the death of the cotton industry, a huge employer, adding to the high toll of unemplyment and poverty. It's all there in his work, the bleak sadness, the crowds, the fights, the evictions and arrests - the spirit of it all.
His use of composition is frequently unconventional - with many a lampost or factory chimney slap bang in the middle of the painting or a wall across the front - a conventional no-no - but he then makes it work with clever use of tone, colour etc to lead your eye through. His use of small areas of red, a frequent device, that softens with distance and carries your eye across the work as he intends is sophisticated.
I wasn't so keen on the bleak paintings of the countryside - simplified, sad, grim. This one is typical.
They had a lot of his drawings, linear, with virtually no shading in the cityscapes but a mass of detail and activity with subtle variation in the weight of line to depict aerial perspective and characters caught bustling by, fighting, standing watching, drunk, playing football and more, their expressions varied, caricatured but so telling. Also a life drawing - traditional, shaded, detailed and completely different again.
To see a range of his work click here
We all came away buzzing - it's a great show, do visit it if you are near enough.
There is another sketch in the tinted charcoal here