Dandelion Art – Week 5
Updated: Mar 15
Once a week we take a painting, or piece of sculpture, that interests us, tell you a bit about it and hope it sparks something with you and your families. We would love to hear of any recommendations.
To celebrate back-to-school week we have been looking at L S Lowry's paintings of schools and children. We have chosen The Playground (1945) because it seems poignant that it speaks of hope and observes a return to normal life after six long dark years of war in Europe.
The Playground by L S Lowry
1945, Private Collection
L S Lowry (1887-1976) painted a world of urban landscapes that many could see no beauty in and yet he has to be one of Britain's best loved artists. His busy scenes of England's industrial north are populated with tiny, sylised figures ("matchstick men") and are instantly recognisable.
Raised on the outskirts of Manchester, Laurence Stephen Lowry left school at 16. He was never a full-time artist but spent many decades as a rent collector and painted most days after work. Lowry claimed that he became an artist because he missed a train! Having missed the train at Pendelbruy station, he saw a scene of the Acme Company's spinning mill "turning out hundreds of little little, pinched figures, heads bent down" that he had looked at many times before without seeing. This was his eureka moment.
The Playground is characteristic of Lowry – an intricate scene full of figures and details. Bustling with life you can spend ages noticing multiple moments and vignettes – both shared and private. His figures famously have a naiive quality to them and notably have no shadows. The distant industrial cityscape is typical of Lowry and his landscapes are oddly weatherless. There are adults in this painting but they don't dominate – the central focus is the slide with the children whizzing down it. The fence in the foreground is a characteristic motif. Many of Lowry's paintings have a barrier of some sort (fence, posts or railings) which it has been suggested represent a loneliness and his separation from the world around him.
This picture has a lighter palette to his darker earlier1940's paintings – a reflection of the relief and joy that must have been felt knowing that children could play safely outside again without threat of air raids. In my mind, the "matchstick men" are smiling.
Anya Waddington 8 March 2021