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Industrial Artists: Lowry, capturing the brutal beauty of industrialised Britain

No other artist has captured the dominating industrial culture of early 20th Century Britain like L.S. Lowry. Whilst many remember his “matchstick” style of drawing people and his iconic dogs and cats, his buildings and industrial landscapes of northern England remain obscure.

Lowry spent much of his time as a debt collector and would have gained inspiration from the terraced houses and flocks of people that marched into the factories every day. Maybe this explains the lack of detail in his depiction of people. While others marvelled at the way Britain churned out goods, little attention went to the workers who produced them. Lowry gives his attention to the industrial landscape, not the people within it.

One of Lowry’s most famous works – ‘Going to Work”

The iconic sticklike appearance of his people is incredible, but I’m in awe of the bleak factories and smoggy environments. It’s incredibly realistic in its depiction. Whilst many artists depicted the grandeur of Britain’s empire or the stunning countryside and stately home, Lowry depicts the backbone of the Industrial giant that was 20th Century Britain and its working-class population. While we may have built grand palaces and stately mansions, the sturdy, yet beautiful red brick factories give us a practical image: the workshop of the world.

In many ways, Lowry mirrored this idea. While northern England was churning out textiles and steel, Lowry churned out hundreds and hundreds of paintings, and, like the goods of the British Empire, by the end of his career they were sold as high end and high priced.