At the Jerwood: Lowry by the Sea

July, the seaside by L S Lowry (Image from the BBC)

LS Lowry occupies a strange place in the British psyche.  Never truly embraced but never as outsider or disparaged as someone like Vettriano.  Now there’s a chance to appraise him from the perspective of some of his coastal work. One of three ‘by the sea’ exhibitions showing at Hastings’ Jerwood Gallery, L S Lowry’s show occupies two rooms and has two paintings that are, to my entirely untrained eye, top drawer.

One is, “July, the Seaside” which is part of the Arts Council Collection.  You can see more about it here.  I like how it transposes the industrial matchstick men that occupy much of Lowry’s work and deposits them, hardly changed, by the coast.  The simple buildings and the crowded beach bring to life the time when factories offloaded en masse to the seaside.  The other is a painting of a charcoal black ship in Glasgow’s docks.  Shorn of people and the whimsy of some of Lowry’s work it is a surprisingly stark work.

A handful of the remaining works, by now far more traditional looking ‘Lowry’ types, are decent but there are a couple which really don’t do much to improve old Laurence Stephen’s reputation at all.  You wonder if, even in such a small gathering, there was really enough to stick to only a sea theme.  But, those two painting mentioned above more than compensate and make a visit worthwhile.



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