Lowry and the Painting of Modern Life – Tate Britain

You’ll either love it or hate it the critics have said about the new Lowry exhibition at Tate Britain, and the comments below their reviews suggest that this artist polarises opinion. The historical context and purpose of Lowry’s paintings were quite different to other more celebrated artists perhaps, but that doesn’t necessarily make his contribution any less valid and meaningful. This is a really interesting exhibition, thematically arranged (rather than chronologically) but you can still see the development of Lowry’s style from his early works which use darker colours and a lot of black shadow, through the 1930s pieces which have a cartoon-like vividness, to the large industrial-scapes often filled with people being pulled towards or emerging from a focal building.

Famous for these strange representations of people in hurried poses, these paintings have an interesting stillness and calm about them. They are observations. The simple style, loathed by some, reminded me of a few pieces in last year’s excellent David Hockney exhibition at the Royal Academy, and of both Hopper and Lichtenstein at the Tate Modern in recent years. In print form maybe they don’t have the same effect but seen live they can be amazing. The paintings of traffic at Piccadilly Circus and of a Blitzed house are particular highlights but to see so many works together is a great opportunity.

So if you’re a fan or even if don’t know much about Lowry then go and see this long overdue exhibition. And if he’s not your thing, then turn right at the top of the stairs and enjoy the Tate’s permanent collection instead.


About Maryam Philpott

This blog takes a more discursive and in-depth approach to reviewing a range of interesting cultural activities in London, covering everything from theatre to exhibitions, films and heritage. I am part of the London theatre critic team for The Reviews Hub where I have professionally reviewed over 350 shows. It was set up in 2007 to review all forms of professional theatre nationwide including Fringe and West End. My background is in social and cultural history and I published a book entitled Air and Sea Power in World War One which examines the experience of the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Navy. View all posts by Maryam Philpott

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