A Northern Town (1969-70)
It could be one of many northern towns, but somehow, with his firm, economical lines, LS Lowry makes it every northern town you have ever known or seen. He manages to capture all the salient details - buildings, greyness, dirt, human activity, street life - in a few strokes of the pencil.
Bandstand, Peel Park
I grew up with these chimneys, immensely tall, thin, blackened church spires, red mills, football grounds (before they became stadiums), flat caps and whippets, corner shops and queues, children playing outside, terraced houses, bare trees, bandstands and boating lakes. It all now sounds cliched and very Monty Python 'Professional Northerner', but Lowry's landscapes and people were those of my childhood, and therefore completely realistic to me. Even now when we drive up to Stockport and see the viaduct ahead of us not much has changed, although the smoke and smog have gone (the grey skies remain).
Tree in a Square 1969
I once saw a tiny Lowry drawing in the house of one of my Mum's friends. Before this, I'd only ever seen the paintings and the reproductions, never one of his drawings. I couldn't believe how much character and energy he could compress into a few lines, the fact that this piece of art was bought for very little at all (Lowry and drawing both being pretty unfashionable). He captured the essence of growing up in a northern town, and it was the first time I understood what painting and drawing from life could mean; that was me, my life, my surroundings in those paintings.
The Viaduct, Stockport 1969
And now, at last, thanks to some high-profile pressure the Lowrys will be coming south to London for an exhibition which will no doubt divide opinion and give rise to plenty of north/south commentary. The anti-Lowry arguments are utterly predictable and over-rehearsed (Brian Sewell will no doubt lead the attack), so it will be interesting to see if anything different, useful and insightful can be said in the mainstream media. I'm not holding my breath.