Posthumus selections of work from the studios of deceased artists often raise as many questions as they answer, John Russell Taylor writes. Did the works remain in their creator’s possession because he was particularly fond of them, or because they were simply stuff he could not sell, or – perhaps worse – would never even consider selling? In the case of the paintings and drawings from the estate of L S Lowry on show at Crane Kalman, the answer seems to be a bit of each.
There are one or two torn and crumpled drawings that he would never have considered saleable but are interesting in documenting Lowry’s development. There are some later drawings in his most childlike style, sometimes highly finished, that his former dealers would probably not have considered saleable because they clearly do not conform to the conventional ‘matchstick men’ image of his art.
More intriguing are three or four of his ‘fetishistic drawings of young women. He took particular interest in high heels, tight lacing, torturously high collars and bizarre and extravagant hairstyle, all shown off on young and attractive women. Those who look at Lowry for a few unallowable thrills will probably to disappointed, however. These pieces are fringe-pornographic in much the same way as some of Fuseli’s drawings. There are matchstick men in plenty – and even more of his mysteriously monochromatic pure landscapes and seascapes, where pigment roughly the colour and consistency of porridge is somehow manipulated into a vivid likeness of wind-whipped waves, or smoothed into an apparently featureless hillock. The other absorbing aspect of this show is what it reveals about Lowry’s development. This proves here to be curiously backwards. Lowry ended, in the opinion of the world, as some sort of wise primitive, painting in a fashion one would have to call childlike, if not childish. So it may well come as a surprise to discover that he was conventionally trained in several art schools, and could paint capably enough in a post-Turks tradition if he wanted to.