Dockside Sunderland. 1962. © The Lowry Estate.
Three paintings by one of the UK's best-known artists, the much-loved LS Lowry have been saved for the British public by Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens.
The works, which were painted in a four year period during the 1960s, are currently on show at the museum and were bought with the help of a £175,000 Heritage Lottery Fund grant.
Dockside, The Sea at Sunderland and Self Portrait I could all have been sold at auction, but thanks to the HLF, the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund and the Friends of Sunderland Museums will now join the museum’s permanent collection.
"We are absolutely thrilled that we have been able to secure the purchase of these paintings," said curator Juliet Horsley, thanking all of the organisations that made it possible.
Self Portrait I. 1966. © The Lowry Estate.
"These new acquisitions complement the industrial landscapes and mill scenes set in the Manchester/Salford area that established his reputation and are important examples of another major aspect of his artistic output - the work he produced as a result of the time he spent in the north east of England."
LS Lowry is most famous for his town and cityscapes that brilliantly evoke the atmosphere of the industrial north.
It was in the 1930s that he began his love affair with the north east. It developed towards the end of his life when Sunderland became his second home after a chance visit in the 1960s.
For Lowry the city was a retreat from the pressures of his success and offered a rich source of new subjects for his work: people, places and the sea, which was always of great fascination to him.
The Sea at Sunderland. 1965. © The Lowry Estate.
The newly acquired works are particularly rare examples of oil paintings, because at this time the majority of the work Lowry produced was in the form of drawings.
They are considered to be of such national importance that the Treasury allowed a private treaty sale to stop them from being sold to private buyers who could have taken them out of the UK.
The former owner was very keen that the paintings should stay together at the museum and has even arranged to bequeath a fourth, Self Portrait II, so the public can continue enjoying them as one collection.
"Dockside, Sunderland is an outstanding example of Lowry's depictions of particular places," explained Juliet Horsley, adding "The Sea at Sunderland represents his almost obsessive fascination for the sea."
Self Portrait II. 1966. © The Lowry Estate.
"Self Portrait I shows this concern fully expressed, with the artist representing himself as a lighthouse, monument or pillar standing firm against the immense power of the sea, in which he saw The Battle of Life."
It’s particularly appropriate that the paintings should be hung at Sunderland Museum where Lowry was a regular visitor. In fact the connection goes back to 1942, when the exhibition Industrial Street Scenes etc by Laurence S Lowry, RBA was held there.
Now the three acquisitions will be displayed alongside the institution’s permanent Lowry exhibition, one of the award-winning Museum's most popular attractions.
As well as the £175,000 grant from the HLF, the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council and V&A Purchase Grant Fund contributed £15,000, Sunderland Museums Acquisitions Fund £7,000, and the Friends of Sunderland Museums £3,000.