From matchstick men to erotic drawings: Unseen Lowry at The Lowry, Salford

By Sarah Jackson | 20 August 2013

Exhibition Preview: Unseen Lowry, The Lowry, Salford, until September 29 2013

L S Lowry, Head of a woman in a feathered hat
LS Lowry, Head of a woman in a feathered hat© Michael Pollard
Although long-derided by the artistic establishment, LS Lowry is having his time in the sun in 2013 with two exhibitions devoted to his work.

While Tate Britain’s blockbuster Lowry show reconsiders his famous industrial landscape in the context of the French Impressionists, The Lowry’s Unseen Lowry reveals a hidden side to a very familiar painter.

More than 100 works on paper, oil sketches and paintings have gone on display which have never been seen by the public, some of which were found in Lowry’s Tameside home at the time of his death in 1976.

Some of these works may cause a few surprises. Portraits and live drawings made by Lowry while he was still at art school reveal his great skill as a draughtsman, supporting views that his choice to draw figures as ‘matchstick men’ was indeed a deliberate artistic choice and not the result of poor skill.

Other sketches hint at a darker side of Lowry. A series of erotic "mannequin drawings", so-called because of the doll-like quality of the figures, portray young girls undergoing corporal punishment such as being flogged in stocks.

Another of these sketches shows a girl with bright red lips, trussed up bosom and impossibly long legs, revealing Lowry’s fascination with the rise of the miniskirt in fashion.

Along with studies of Lowry’s familiar industrial landscapes, populated with ‘matchstick men’, are bleak seascapes that perhaps reflect the artist’s private battles with loneliness and depression.

Unseen Lowry breathes new life into his better known works, revealing a far more complex character – and artist – then he has previously been given credit for.

  • Open 11am-5pm (10am-5pm Saturday). Admission free. Follow the gallery on Twitter @The_Lowry.

Follow Sarah Jackson on Twitter @SazzyJackson.

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