The Spectators, 1923

by L S Lowry


DIMENSIONS: 12 x 17.6 inches (30.5 x 44.7 cm)
SIGNATURE: Signed ‘L S Lowry’ and dated (lower right)
MEDIUM: Oil on board


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    We believe this subject is depicting Bolton Wanderers supporters watching  Manchester City at Burden Park, Bolton on 25th September 1922, resulting in a 2-1 score.

    Lowry was a lifelong fan of Manchester City Football Club but he also had an affinity for the rival team Bolton Wanderers, as his home was within walking distance of their former stadium.

    This piece has been described as a portrayal of ‘supporters on their way to see the Bolton Wanderers’, and has been rumoured to be a depiction of the aforementioned match.

    Although Lowry was well known for his football subjects, very few of his paintings depict the sport itself, focusing instead on the crowds of spectators, often in drab hues.

    One of Lowry’s most famous works, ‘Going to the Match’ (1928), was thought to be one of his earliest depictions of Spectators at a sporting event, however, this work, previously held in Monty Bloom’s Collection, was painted in 1923. Another work by Lowry, a drawing in pencil also entitled ‘The Spectators’, was produced in the same year.

    This idea of ‘The Spectator’ is a recurring theme in Lowry’s work, and may be a reflection of his own identity. Lowry’s father was a local football team coach at St Clement’s Sunday School, and often tried to recruit his son to play. Lowry, however, refused and consigned himself to the side-lines, much happier to remain a spectator himself.

    Private collection of Monty Bloom, United Kingdom
    (with) Tate Gallery, 1966-1967
    (with) Atkinson Art Gallery, Southport, 1967
    Sold: Christie’s, London, March 9th 1990, Lot 288
    Private collection, United Kingdom
    (with) Halcyon Gallery
    Private collection, United Kingdom

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    Sunderland, Art Gallery, L. S. Lowry, R.A., August-September, 1986, no. 10, Manchester, Whitworth Art Gallery, September-October 1966, Bristol, City Art Gallery, October-November 1966, London, Tate Gallery, November 1966-January 67
    Southport, Atkinson Art Gallery, The Bloom Collection, 1967, no. 24

    Laurence Stephen Lowry was an English artist born on Barrett Street, Stretford, in Lancashire. Many of his drawings and paintings depict nearby Salford and the surrounding areas, including Pendlebury, which is where he lived and worked for over 40 years.

    As a young boy, Lowry lived in the leafy Manchester suburb of Victoria Park. Lack of finances resulted in the family then having to move to Station Road, Pendlebury, Salford – a far more industrial landscape than Lowry had been used to. Lowry would recall “At first I detested it, and then, after years I got pretty interested in it, then obsessed by it.”

    Lowry studied both at the Manchester Academy of Fine Art and at Salford Royal Technical College in Peel Park, close to where he lived. Tutored by the likes of the famed French impressionist Adolphe Valette, and inspired by the Pre-Raphaelite artists Ford Madox Brown and Rossetti, Lowry understood how the power of art and artists could influence the representation of landscapes and, in particular, the modern city. Lowry felt that drawings were as hard to do as painting. He worked the surface of his drawings by smudging, erasing and rubbing the pencil lines on his paper to build the atmosphere of the drawing. Lowry developed his own individual style, gathering inspiration from the surrounding landscape of busy cotton mills, terraced houses and the bustle of the working classes.

    Best known for his depictions of industrial Manchester and Salford and “matchstick men,” his work covers a wide range of subject matter including seascapes, landscapes and portraits, among which are the oil paintings of his mother and father which he kept on display in his home throughout his life.

    L.S Lowry has been one of the biggest British successes in the last ten years moving out of obscurity to a key position in British Art. His work can now be found in museums and private collections across the globe, including the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, The Imperial War Museum in London, the MOMA in New York and the Tate in London. In 2013, Tate Britain held a retrospective of his work, the first one since his death.

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