As the seasons change and the weather makes you want to hibernate indoors, it’s the perfect time to get exploring local museums and galleries. So, one recent rainy weekend in Manchester took me to The Lowry in Salford. I’ve seen Lowry pieces before at Manchester Art Gallery in the city centre (one of my favourite spots), but the gallery at The Lowry is – unsurprisingly – home to the biggest collection and some works that you wouldn’t typically associate with the famous matchstick man artist. I arrived just before a 2pm talk about LS Lowry was about to begin. I had just enough time to take a look at how Lowry had been inspired by the local area, as well as reading some snippets from Salford writer Robert Roberts which chimes with the scenes that Lowry depicted.
The talk was led by one of the gallery’s volunteers and it was truly insightful, it’s definitely worth timing your visit to coincide with this. Our guide walked us through some of Lowry’s earlier works that are in a completely different style to those we know today, using very traditional oil painting techniques. She also explained how Lowry’s challenging relationship with a distant mother and meek father shaped Lowry as a young boy, who learnt to observe and became a fascinated bystander. The family first lived in affluent Victoria Park, but financial difficulties took them to Pendlebury, which young Lowry initially hated. But he later became hugely interested by the local landscape and industrial backdrop which inspired some of his most famous works. We were led through some of the best known Lowry paintings, which were even more intriguing and vibrant in real life. Our guide explained how Lowry’s techniques changed over the years, but something that all the work had in common was an ability to shine a light on local society at the time. Pieces like Coming From The Mill and Going To The Match transport you to that era and make you feel like you could be part of the crowds going about their daily lives.
We also learned about some of Lowry’s personal struggles and the fact he held down a full time job at the same time as painting, but hid this from his fellow artists so they wouldn’t accuse him of being a ‘Sunday painter’. Lesser-known works in the gallery which depict corseted marionette dolls and female forms are a huge departure from the famed Lowry style. It is suggested that this shows how lonely the artist was and hints that he regretted never having a relationship, which was perhaps due to the close but sometimes difficult bond with his mother. My tour for the day ended back with our matchstick men and the most famous Lowry pieces, and gave a fascinatingly full picture of this local artist.
While I was there I took a look at the Lowry At Home photography exhibition next door. The temporary exhibition of photos by Clive Arrowsmith, who is known for working with the likes of David Bowie and The Beatles, shows previously unseen photos of Lowry in his Salford house. It was fascinating to see the man behind such famous works, particularly as he led such a private life. I concluded my day with a visit to the gift shop – always my favourite part of any day out! I picked up a print of one of my favorite pieces, Going To Work, which now has pride of place in the downstairs loo. The Lowry galleries are free to enter and are open 11am-5pm Sunday to Friday and from 10am on a Saturday.