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Photo: Getty Popperfoto
L.S. Lowry, (pictured in 1957), the artist from Manchester, is the subject of a major new show at the Tate Britain gallery.

Some years ago when my husband was in England on business, he acquired a print of workers coming and going outside a factory. The original was by L.S. Lowry, whose paintings of industrial Britain turn out to be very popular in the UK.

Popularity, however, is not a ticket to being shown at the Tate Britain. Belatedly, Lowry will receive a retrospective in 2014.

Oliver Wainwright at the Daily Mail writes, “Clouds of smoke belch from forests of chimneys, while armies of spidery figures scuttle to and fro between narrow terrace houses and imposing factory gates.

“Crowds of fans shiver on the edge of a football field, a fist-fight breaks out, and barefoot children tease a stray cat on the street corner.

“These are the scenes depicted in the haunting paintings of L.S. Lowry who, more than any other artist, managed to capture the strange, bleak beauty of daily life in northern industrial towns.

“His dream-like images captured the popular imagination, adorning chocolate boxes and biscuit tins, tea towels and jigsaws.

“Yet they are scarcely to be found on the walls of our major national galleries. The Tate owns 23 of his works, but has only ever exhibited one on its walls in the past 20 years — and then only briefly. …

“Why has it taken so long?

” ‘He’s a victim of his own fan base,’ said Chris Stephens, Tate Britain’s Head of Displays. ‘What makes Lowry so popular is the same thing which stops him being the subject of serious critical attention. What attracts so many is a sort of sentimentality about him.’

“This is a strangely inverted piece of art world logic,” Wainwright comments, “where the popularity of an artist is seen as an obstacle to showing their work.”

If you’re an artist, be careful to stay off “chocolate boxes and biscuit tins, tea towels and jigsaws” — or wait to be discovered by art experts of a future generation.

More here and here.

 © The estate of L.S. Lowry
L.S. Lowry, Coming out of School, 1927

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