Twentieth-century British artist Laurence Stephen Lowry (1887–1976) was best-known for his melancholic oil paintings of the industrial North West, populated with milling crowds of ‘matchstick men’, smoking chimneys, and imposing factories.
Born in the leafy, middle-class suburbs of Manchester, Lowry and his family were forced to move to the more industrial area of Pendlebury, Lancashire in 1909 due to financial difficulties. To offer his support, Lowry took on a job as a rent collector in his early twenties which he retained for over forty years, and painted his canvasses each night after his daily rounds. Lowry took night classes at the Salford School of Art, studying under French Impressionist Pierre Adolphe Valette (1876 – 1942). Although its influence can be noted in his early rural landscapes, Lowry never entirely adopted the Impressionistic techniques or bold colour palettes of his tutor; he famously used just five colours in his work: vermilion, ivory black, Prussian blue, yellow ochre, and flake white. Lowry had been painting in secret for over 30 years before he held his first London exhibition in 1939, where he immediately began to garner critical interest. In the following 27 years until his death, Lowry’s enigmatic reputation continued to grow, and he both accepted and rejected many honours bestowed on him, including a knighthood. Today, Lowry’s works have achieved vast international acclaim, and his paintings, drawings, and limited editions prints are highly sought-after by collectors.