Lowry Trail

 

         Dear Mr Bennett
                  So you have gone to Maryport! I’m very glad……
                  you have gone to a wonderful place’!
        L S Lowry

 

Many people will have heard of the artist, L S Lowry. Laurence Stephen Lowry, 1887 to 1976, was famous for painting scenes of life in the industrial areas of north west England in the mid-20th century. His distinctive style of painting featured urban landscapes with human figures, often referred to as ‘matchstick men’, which cast no shadows.

In many ways, his emergence as an artist was somewhat accidental, his original inspiration being said to come when he missed a train at Pendlebury Station:

‘As I left the station, I saw the Acme Spinning Company’s mill…The huge black framework of yellow-lit windows standing up against the sad, damp charged afternoon sky. The mill was turning out…..I watched this scene…..which I’d looked at many times without seeing – with rapture…’.

Lowry visited the Maryport area regularly to visit his friend Geoffrey Bennett, whom he had met in Manchester in the 1920’s when Bennett worked with Lowry’s cousin. Geoffrey Bennett became manager of the Westminster Bank in Maryport in 1953. He & his wife Alice, who was a Maryport Urban District Councillor, elected in 1955, lived above the Westminster Bank at 31/33 Senhouse Street. When Lowry heard of Bennett’s promotion in 1953, he wrote to his friend, beginning his letter with the words at the top. Following Bennett’s ordination into the Anglican Church in 1962, Lowry would address him as the ‘Reverend Gentleman’, & when the artist died in 1976, Bennett conducted his funeral service.

Lowry also visited the area many times with his protegee Sheila Fell, a gifted West Cumbrian landscape artist whom Lowry described as ‘the finest landscape artist of the mid-20th century’. Fell & Lowry painted together around West Cumbria, & both produced paintings & drawings of Maryport, including scenes of the harbour. Lowry also visited local artist Percy Kelly, whose work he admired.

In 2021, local Primary Schools undertook a project on Lowry, funded by Maryport Town Council, in which the school children learned of Lowry’s upbringing & development as an artist, reviewing his pictures of Maryport & identifying their sites. They then learned to draw in the style of Lowry & produced their own versions of Lowry’s Maryport pictures.

The children’s pictures have been used to produce a display at sites of importance to Lowry in the town: Christchurch; the Harbour; Market Steps; Shipping Brow; & the former Westminster Bank. They have beautifully captured Lowry’s style in the artwork accompanying this trail. You are invited to enjoy these versions & perhaps be inspired yourselves!

 

Reflecting L S Lowry
Town Steps, Maryport


 

L S Lowry did several paintings of the Market Steps, complete with his trademark lamp post & fence railings. Known also as the ‘zig zag’ steps, these worn sandstone slabs lead from King Street to emerge opposite Fleming Square, once the site of a bustling Georgian marketplace.

A 1954 version, depicted as ‘Town Steps, Maryport’, shows the flight of steps ascending the slope. Lowry liked painting steps, as can be seen in the fortified uphill zigzag in the picture. He was a superb designer of paintings, making shapes which are unusual but complement each other, & then locking them together to form a unified whole. The crisp outlines of the walls & railings in the picture give a satisfying effect, which are softened by the inclusion of people & dogs.

In 2021, children from Ellenborough Academy, Ewanrigg Juniors, Flimby Primary Grasslot Infants, Maryport Primary, Netherton Infants and Our Lady & St Patricks Primary and Dearham Primary Schools undertook a project on Lowry, funded by Maryport Town Council, in which the school children learned of Lowry’s upbringing & development as an artist, reviewing his pictures of Maryport & identifying their sites. They then learned to draw in the style of Lowry & produced their own versions of Lowry’s Maryport pictures. Samples of their work are depicted in this display.

 

Reflecting L S Lowry
Church on the Quay, Maryport


 

Church on the Quay, Maryport, depicts the 19th Century Christchurch, which sits adjacent to the old harbour. Also known as the ‘Fishermen’s’ Church, the iconic Christchurch has been depicted many times by past & present artists. Its clock was gifted to Maryport by its most famous son, Thomas Henry Ismay, whose acquisition of the ship builders, White Star Line led to the launch of the ill-fated Titanic.

Lowry’s friend Geoffrey Bennett was ordinated to the Anglican Church in 1956, & it is arguable that the high proportion of ecclesiastical subjects in his Cumbrian work, including Christchurch in ‘The Old Quay’, & ‘Brow Street Chapel, Maryport’, represent some influence from Bennett.

It can be said that, whilst Christchurch & the congregation assembled at its doors take the central position in the picture, Lowry does not permit them to dominate the composition. His attention is equally given to the many figures which populate the quayside, & to King Street, receding to the right of the picture. Similar treatment to the scene was given to a painting in 1954 & to drawings in 1956 & 1959, with different names such as ‘The Old Quay, Maryport’ & simply ‘Maryport’.

An oil painting of the scene sold at auction in 2007 for £216,500 & a version drawn by Lowry in 1954 sold in November 2020 for £81,000.

In 2021, children from Ellenborough Academy, Ewanrigg Juniors, Flimby Primary Grasslot Infants, Maryport Primary, Netherton Infants and Our Lady & St Patricks Primary and Dearham Primary Schools undertook a project on Lowry, funded by Maryport Town Council, in which the school children learned of Lowry’s upbringing & development as an artist, reviewing his pictures of Maryport & identifying their sites. They then learned to draw in the style of Lowry & produced their own versions of Lowry’s Maryport pictures. Samples of their work are depicted in this display.

 

Reflecting L S Lowry
Senhouse Street, Maryport


 

Painted from South Quay, & showing Shipping Brow, the view looks very much as it does today. In the bold composition, Lowry demonstrates his expertise as a fine draughtsman with his assured use of pencil.

The empty & subtly shaded sky recalls the starkness often found in Lowry’s industrial landscapes. The lamp post in the centre & railings around the harbour & at the sides of Shipping Brow, punctuated by the trademark ‘matchstick’ people, typify Lowry’s style. Lowry said of his style, ‘Natural figures would have broken the spell of it, so I made the figures half unreal. Some critics have said that I turned my figures into puppets……I did not care for them as a social reformer does. They are part of a private beauty that haunted me. I loved them & the houses in the same way; as part of a vision’.

The picture sold at Christie’s in 2004 for £498,050.
In 2021, children from Ellenborough Academy, Ewanrigg Juniors, Flimby Primary Grasslot Infants, Maryport Primary, Netherton Infants and Our Lady & St Patricks Primary and Dearham Primary Schools undertook a project on Lowry, funded by Maryport Town Council, in which the school children learned of Lowry’s upbringing & development as an artist, reviewing his pictures of Maryport & identifying their sites. They then learned to draw in the style of Lowry & produced their own versions of Lowry’s Maryport pictures. Samples of their work are depicted in this display.

 

Reflecting L S Lowry
The Harbour


 

Lowry’s artworks are often characterised by his use of a limited palette of colours, favouring ivory black, flake white, Prussian blue, ochre & vermillion. His picture, ‘The Harbour’, was painted by Lowry in 1957 when he was in his mid-60’s. It features a mixture of sailing vessels in the foreground with an abundance of buildings, industrial, commercial & dwellings in the centre, an austere, grey, sky & a harbour at high tide.

Of the sea, Lowry said, ‘It’s a battle of life – the turbulence of the sea…I have been fond of the sea all my life, how wonderful it is, yet how terrible it is. But I often think….what if it suddenly changed its mind & didn’t turn the tide? And came straight on? If it didn’t stop & came on & on & on & on….that would be the end of it all’.

In 2021, children from Ellenborough Academy, Ewanrigg Juniors, Flimby Primary Grasslot Infants, Maryport Primary, Netherton Infants and Our Lady & St Patricks Primary and Dearham Primary Schools undertook a project on Lowry, funded by Maryport Town Council, in which the school children learned of Lowry’s upbringing & development as an artist, reviewing his pictures of Maryport & identifying their sites. They then learned to draw in the style of Lowry & produced their own versions of Lowry’s Maryport pictures. Samples of their work are depicted in this display.

Reflecting L S Lowry
The Street


 

L S Lowry’s friend, Geoffrey Bennett, lived above the Westminster Bank on Senhouse Street. He became manager of the Maryport branch of the bank in 1953, leading Lowry to write, ‘Dear Mr Bennett………So you have gone to Maryport! I am very glad……you have gone to a wonderful place’.

‘The Street’ is an example of one of Lowry’s mysterious unpopulated landscapes, using a limited range of colours. Lowry did not simply sit in front of his subject & paint it, he recreated it back in his studio from memory & imagination, & his scribbled notes. Through this methodology, he was able to omit & merge, altering what he had seen when necessary to make a more ordered & effective picture, which nevertheless remained true to the spirit of the subject.

Lowry had the gift of painting what could be seen as grim with a tenderness that transformed & transfigured it. Colour & design, together with paint handling, were among Lowry’s strengths, which he worked hard to perfect. His paintings were seen as remarkable for their integrity & honesty. In his typical style & preference of colour, Lowry has imported his busy urban palette to our little town.

In 2021, children from Ellenborough Academy, Ewanrigg Juniors, Flimby Primary Grasslot Infants, Maryport Primary, Netherton Infants and Our Lady & St Patricks Primary and Dearham Primary Schools undertook a project on Lowry, funded by Maryport Town Council, in which the school children learned of Lowry’s upbringing & development as an artist, reviewing his pictures of Maryport & identifying their sites. They then learned to draw in the style of Lowry & produced their own versions of Lowry’s Maryport pictures. Samples of their work are depicted in this display.