Art v. life



On a research trip to the Lowry Gallery in Salford, I had one of those slightly odd experiences where art and life intersect. The image above is Lowry’s uncomfortable and uncomfortably named The Cripples (1949). When challenged that he could not possibly have encountered so many people with disabilities, Lowry hauled his sceptical interlocutor round post-war Manchester to prove a point. Waiting for a delayed tram to Salford Quays I conversed with an unkempt man who explained that because he had been sectioned he got no dole. As I was making notes in the Gallery, a small group of people with physical disabilities and learning issues came in. Their carers evinced shock at the picture’s name, though the image which elicited the strongest response from one of the group was The Bedroom, Pendlebury (a dingy tribute to van Gogh’s Bedroom in Arles). The degree to which Lowry mocked or empathised with his subjects generally is debateable and though this image shows scant evidence of the latter quality he did undoubtedly appreciate the impact of misfortune and trauma. What is clear, surely even to the sceptical, is that austerity Britain would provide him with plenteous subject matter today.

There are 25 Lowries currently hanging in the Lowry-Berry exhibition at the Potteries Museum. The Lowry in Salford holds a large permanent collection – both demonstrate that Lowry was not simply a painter of industrial landscapes populated with ‘matchstick men’.

Major local art exhibition and associated events

Lowry and Berry: Observers of Urban Life

In conjunction with the exhibition of paintings by L.S. Lowry and his local counterpart Arthur Berry – ‘Observers of Urban Life’ – at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, Paul Houghton and Catherine Burgass are both involved in ‘Live Age Festival’ events.  Paul is running a creative writing workshop ‘Writing is Seeing’ and Catherine is talking with Ray Johnson on ‘Arthur Berry and the Poetics of Place’, both on Saturday 3rd October.  Attendance at either of these free events will also gain you free admission to the exhibition, which places these two significant twentieth-century painters of the industrial landscape side by side for the first time and is well worth seeing.  For further information and to book go to:!october-3-schedule/cgjf