The people and industrial cityscapes of the North West almost entirely define Laurence Stephen Lowry RA (1887-1976) in the public’s imagination. However, now a new exhibition - appropriately at the seaside-based Jerwood Gallery in East Sussex - reveals the artist’s less well known sea paintings.
Lowry by the Sea (10 June - 1 November 2015) explores the intense relationship that one of the most popular and celebrated British artists of all time had with the sea.
From Britons at play on the beaches of Lytham St Annes and Roker, to peacefully moored coal barges and pastel-coloured sailing boats, Lowry painted the sea in many forms. Now around eighteen of these works from The Lowry Collection, Arts Council Collection and a number of private lenders are being gathered together in Hastings.
Much as he was synonymous with towns and cities, the North Sea held a particular attraction for Lowry, as he remarked: “It’s all there. It’s all in the sea. The Battle of Life is there. And Fate. And the inevitability of it all. And the purpose.”
He sketched and painted the North Sea in many forms, with and without boats, as backdrops to portraits – even in self-portraits. For Lowry, the unpredictable nature and power of the sea bore similarities with what he referred to as the “the battle of life”, his own phrase for the daily tribulations by which we all exist. He expressed this in an abstract self-portrait in which a single column is surrounded by swirling waters. The fragile stack of black rock is poised to be engulfed by the sea and expresses how he himself was fascinated by the concept of oceans: “What interests me here, of course, is the vastness of it and the terribleness of it… I wonder what would happen if the tide didn’t turn, and the sea came on and on and on and on. What would the place be like, and wouldn’t it be wonderful to see it?”
Ideally located for such an exhibition, the Jerwood Gallery sits on the beach in Hastings’ atmospheric Old Town area. Lowry by the Sea is part of a larger Festival of the Sea held at Jerwood Gallery during the summer season, including parallel exhibitions by the contemporary artist Rachel Howard and illustrator, Sir Quentin Blake.
Jerwood Gallery Director Liz Gilmore says “Lowry had a very special relationship with the sea that produced some amazing works of art. It seems appropriate that Jerwood Gallery - which also has a unique bond with the sea – is the place which will try and make these works, very deservedly, more widely recognised and loved.”
There will a study day on Lowry at Jerwood Gallery in the autumn, supported by The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art.
Lowry by the Sea will be on display from 10 June - 1 November 2015. For more information visit jerwoodgallery.org.