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Going to the match.

As a keen football fan I thought today's blog would be both football and art related. Football and art usually would not go together, but on this occasion I think it is rather fitting.

Let's go back to the early century, and the sunny County of Lancashire. Back in these early days the larger cities like Manchester would be covered with plumes of smog, driven out of the huge chimneys from the local factories. The smoke would be bellowing out into the atmosphere for all to live and breath. It was a very dark era, both in building designs and the clothing worn by all. When it came to Saturdays the culture would change and local folk would travel from far and wide to support their local football teams. Two of the most prominent teams of their day (up North) were obviously Manchester United and Manchester City. One of the most famous paintings from this era was by Laurence Stephen Lowry, entitled 'Going to the match'.

Lowry was born in 1887 in Stretford, Manchester, within a stones throw of what is now the Manchester Utd football ground. By rights he should have been a Utd fan but in fact, Lowry grew up to be a life long 'blue', a Manchester City supporter. He also had a soft spot for Bolton Wanderers Football Club, as this team was within a very short distance of Pendlebury, the place he moved to aged just 22. His masterpiece 'Going to the match' was actually based upon Bolton's old football ground at Burnden Park.

Lowry was a fan of creating mind blowing urban landscapes, whilst also adding his unique human figures, which he nicknamed 'matchstick men'. 'Going to the match' was Lowry's way of depicting the movement of a crowd, using his unique characters, all cleverly painted in a stern leaning position. This leaning position would often be facing towards the main attraction, in this case the football ground entrances. You will notice the the characters he projected are all shadowless, eager to enter the ground in haste and frightened of missing a single second of the game.

The lack of weather is also most prominent in a Lowry piece of artwork, allowing us to focus in on far away places. In this particular painting we can see the factories some distance away, from where these local spectators would have been working 12 hour shifts the day before, or even that same morning. The distant crowd can be seen flocking to the ground from far and wide and if you look close enough you can still see their unique leaning positions. Up close you will find glimpses of the elderly, holding their walking sticks and skinny dogs roaming within the crowd. The more well to do gentlemen are of course dressed very smartly in their long coats and tall bowler hats whilst the children of the day gather in their shorts.

'Going to the match', which was originally called 'Football Ground' was painted by Lowry in 1953. He painted it for a competition held by the Football Association of England (FA) and it was eventually purchased by the Professional Footballers Association (PFA) in 1999 for a record £1.9m.

So, what's a Lowry worth then?

The most expensive Lowry to date was also another football related painting. Lowry titled this one simply 'The Football Match', which sold for over £5.6m back in 2011.

Prior to this sale, this particular painting travelled on tour through London, the US and Paris before a private buyer purchased it in 1950. Here it remained for 40 years, without being seen by the many followers of Lowry.

Some say Lowry may have lived a lonely life. He never married or even had a girlfriend. His only friendship occurred in the 1950s when he himself was in his 70s. Lowry befriended a young 13yr old girl called Carol Ann Lowry, who wanted to be an artist. Although no relation, Carol Ann contacted Lowry for advice on drawing, and from that day on they formed a beautiful mentor pupil relationship. This relationship went on for 2 decades until he eventually died of pneumonia in 1972.

Over his lifetime Lowry is said to have produced over 1000 paintings and 8000 sketches, 23 of which can be seen in the Tate Gallery London. Check out this link to view some of his finest work.

As Lowry became more famous, his artworks were targeted several times. Five Lowry art works were stolen from a gallery in Cheadle Hulme, Stockport on 2 May 2007. The most valuable of these pieces, entitled 'The Viaduct' was estimated to be valued at over £700,000. These paintings were later found in a house in Liverpool. As far as I am aware, they were not hanging on the walls.

Lowry was well known for being a real down to earth gentleman of the artworld.

Some of Lowry's most famous quotes were;

"You don't need brains to be a painter, just feelings."

"If people call me a Sunday painter, I'm a Sunday painter who paints every day of the week."

"Most of my land and townscape is composite. Made up; part real and part imaginary ... bits and pieces of my home locality. I don't even know I'm putting them in. They just crop up on their own, like things do in dreams."

Maybe we all need to take some of Lowry's advice when it comes to paintings.

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