Looking For Lowry will be transmitted on Easter Sunday, 24th April at 22.15 on ITV network
“LOOKING FOR LOWRY” – By Ian McKellen
I was brought up in industrial Lancashire down the road from where L.S. Lowry (1887 -1976) lived and painted in Manchester. We shared the same polluted skies.
My mother hung out the washing on a Monday and if the wind was in the wrong direction, by the end of the day, it would be grimy, because of all the soot in the air. Lowry knew a thing or two about soot but he made a virtue of it in his paintings.
During our filming in Salford for “Looking for Lowry”, I have been enjoying The Lowry’s large collection of paintings and drawings. Both on show in the galleries and in the archive there is evidence and proof that Lowry is one of the greatest C20th painters. It was moving to feel I was in his company and enjoy his most familiar paintings up close.
I am a recent convert to his empty paintings of sea and mountains but if you want any proof that Lowry was a great painter, look at his crowds. Until Samuel Beckett wrote “Waiting for Godot” nobody seems to have noticed that most of our lives are to do with waiting, and until Lowry painted his crowds, no other artist had noticed how people (and animals) look and behave en masse.
Once you have seen how Lowry saw us, you cannot ever see or be in a football crowd, nor watch kids playing, workers leaving the factory, queuing, or stopping to chat or hear the fairground barker, without saying “Lowry! It’s a Lowry painting!” Going about our business, we are all subjects of his vision.
He was not a naturalistic painter and didn’t intend to be. He was not a camera; he didn’t even own one. He rather stood across the road from his subjects and observed. Often in the crowd scenes there are a number of individuals peering back at him.
He wasn’t an insider, advocating social change, pleading on behalf of his less fortunate neighbours. He lived through the 30’s depression, the suffragette movement and the First and Second World Wars, but they are not specified in the paintings; he is a painter not a politician. Yet his portraits and crowds reflect his good-humoured humanity and his unsentimental inquisitiveness. His continuing popularity is not surprising.
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