Lowry and the painting of modern life


John Barrell has a review on the LSE blog of a recent Tate exhibition entitled ‘Lowry and the painting of the modern life‘. It provides some reflections and reassessments of Lowry’s paintings of industrial spaces. It covers the popularity of Lowry’s work, the repeated motifs, the value and limitations of locality, the visibility of modern life and the changing accounts of industrial spaces as they developed through Lowry’s outputs. This is the opening of the piece:

Lowry and the Painting of Modern Life, curated by the American art historian Anne Wagner and her British husband T.J. Clark, is the most radical and exciting re-evaluation of a British artist I have ever encountered, and a thrilling display of how paint conveys ideas, time, place, building a self-contained world at once absorbing and convincing in its relation to lived experience.

And here is an excerpt on the variability of visibility in modernity:

Clark and Wagner approach these incidents in the street by reminding us that in the crowded towns of industrial Britain life was lived much more in public than it was in the new suburbs; space was in short supply, so anyone’s business became everyone’s business. Lowry’s project, they argue, was possible only because ‘modern life’ was still lived outdoors in the parts of Manchester he knew best. In the suburbs modern life had moved indoors, and had become invisible to the artist as flâneur, or rent collector.

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