Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

More About Lowry

The low critical regard in which Lowry is held has a lot to do with him not being a London artist. He never visited St Ives either. If you don't network- if you're not in the swim- you can't really be any good, now can you? If you do network- even though you may not be terribly good- you get the benefit of the reflected glory. Look at Ben Nicholson- that unexciting, tame, British modernist. He commands gallery space because he knew the right people. Same goes for his one time wife- Barbara Hepworth. She's dull but she once palled around with Naum Gabo. 

That song about Lowry won't have done him any favours either. He may appeal to the nostalgia market now but at the time he was painting them his subjects were real and contemporary. The warmth is projected onto him, it doesn't come from the art itself.  Look closely at those matchstalk people of his and you'll see they're little horrors. The faces- when they have faces- are like faces by Munch or Ensor. Lowry's sensibility was entirely modern. He's an expressionist- but also a minimalist.  His palette- all blacks, whites and reds- puts me in mind of Mondriaan. So do the spare compositions. You want alienation- the anomie of modern urban life- then Lowry's your man- as distressing as Bacon but without the theatricality. He's authentically proletarian too. Other artists may have played at being working class; Lowry was the real thing. There was no rich daddy to keep him in oil paint and turps so he held down a day job as a rent collector. That too is held against him. Not a real artist. Just an amateur, a Sunday painter. If I'm a Sunday painter, he once said, I'm a Sunday painter who paints every day.  

Alfred Wallis was a retired sea captain and that's part of his appeal. Oh the authenticity!  Those ships, those lighthouses- he painted them with real knowledge! But then Wallis had the patronage of London artists- including Ben bloody Nicholson. Also he lived in St Ives.

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