VE Day – 1945 (L.S. Lowry 1887-1976)

Born in Manchester in 1887, Lawrence Stephen Lowry is one of Britain’s most celebrated artists. He studied painting and drawing from 1905-1915 at the Municipal College of Art. In 1909 Lowry moved to Salford with his parents where he remained for 40 years. The urban and industrial landscape was of great interest to him and he attended art classes at the Salford School of Art. From 1919 he exhibited his work with the Manchester Academy of Fine Arts. In 1965 he was elected to the Royal Academy and given the freedom of the City of Salford.

Events he actually witnessed in Manchester, Salford or other towns in the north inspired many of Lowry’s pictures. At that time few artists painted ordinary people going about their everyday lives in bleak industrial cities, so his pictures became very popular. In this painting, thousands of ‘matchstick’ people are seen thronging the streets to celebrate the end of World War II in Europe. The grim industrial buildings are enlivened by flags and bunting and there are even some people sitting on rooftops. Simply by including so many people, Lowry is able to convey the lively atmosphere of the scene. However, if you look closely, you will see that each one is slightly different in stance, movement, clothing and height, which was quite an achievement considering the number of figures that filled his paintings.

During World War II he served as a firewatcher and undertook his duties from the top of a department store in Manchester. Perhaps the one of the figures sitting on top of the building is a self portrait?

His distinctive style of painting has led to a large collection of his work to be housed in a purpose built art gallery on Salford Keys on permanent display to the public.

View this work in the Looking At Art Gallery of Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum, on the ground floor in the East Wing.

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