The seventh one-man show of paintings by L. S. Lowry opened yesterday at the Lefevre Gallery, London. Mr Lowry is a artist who has given the words "one-man show" a new and intensified meaning. He is among the most deservedly respected English painters of our time and it is impossible to explain his achievement by reference to any other artist or group of artists. His life work has been a one-man show. He has always painted his own places and his own people. He has always cultivated his own talent and paid no attention to the theories or visions of others.
The theme of industrial landscape has offered him an infinite variety of material for the making of pictures. Factory chimney-stacks, smoke-marked sky, streets crowded with pin men going to work and children playing, lamp-posts, and churches make his pattern. He does not make the mean streets look mean dramatically, nor does he try to beautify them in any way. He simply puts them into paintings. Such simplicity is a rare and powerful creative force. Sometimes he will find and paint recognisable streets which happen to fit his requirements. At other times his townscape is half-remembered, half-invented. In both cases it is unmistakably Lowry.
The present collection of 30 new paintings seems to me to show two new developments in his work. In the townscapes the treatment of space and distance is more boldly experimental than ever. This is mostly clearly visible in two excellent "recognisable" pictures called "Steps at Maryport" and "A Procession in Manchester." The composition of both is excitingly forceful and complex at the same time. The other new development is that Mr Lowry's people have come forward into the picture out of the distant streets. We see their faces close to. They are by no means flattered and yet I think Mr Lowry is painting them with considerable affection. Two groups in particular present a crowd nearer in vision than usual. The first is of a Northern race-meeting, the second of people on a promenade.
I had the impertinence to point out to Mr Lowry that his figures had very large and heavy boots and hats. But Mr Lowry is not to be drawn into argument. "Why do you think I do them like that?" he asked. It would be a bold critic who would explain to Mr Lowry why he does things. It would be a foolish one who expected him to do anything in a different way. Lowry has also in this show one or two paintings of yachts at Lytham St Annes which have a delicacy present in the town paintings, though not so easy to recognise.