Sotheby's Will Feature Two Lowry Masterpieces: The Football Match and A Fairground
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Sotheby's Will Feature Two Lowry Masterpieces: The Football Match and A Fairground
L.S. Lowry, A Fairground, Oil on canvas, Estimate: £700,000-1,000,000. © Sotheby's Images.



LONDON.- The work of Laurence Stephen Lowry (1887-1976) holds a special place in the heart of the British public and Sotheby’s is thrilled to announce today that on Thursday, December 13, 2007 it will be presenting for sale not just one, but two modern masterpieces by the much celebrated British master in its sale of 20th Century British Art. The two pictures – a recently discovered painting entitled A Fairground and an iconic work known as The Football Match – both rank among the most important and accomplished works by Lowry ever to have come to the market and they will be sold at a time when interest in the artist is stronger than ever. With a combined pre-sale estimate of £1.7-2 million, the two pictures are instantly recognisable as Lowry compositions as they incorporate all of the signature elements of the artist’s greatest works. They cast him as an observer of humanity - in all its moods. Their sale in December will follow an exhibition tour that will see the works visit Scotland, Ireland and the US.

Lowry’s canvases have been at the forefront of the 20th-century British art market since the 1960s. Born in Stretford, on the outskirts of Manchester, Lowry was a curious character who was completely dedicated to his art. His drawings and paintings on the whole represent Salford and the surrounding areas – particularly Pendlebury - where Lowry lived and worked for well over 30 years. Famous for his scenes of daily life within the architectural framework of the industrial urban areas of northern England in the early part of the 20th century, his highly acclaimed canvases show chimneys, mills, church spires and back-to-back terraces alongside stylised figures and a lack of weather effects. From the earliest stages of his career, these panoramic industrial landscapes were at the heart of his work and they remain the images most frequently associated with him. Successful throughout his lifetime, Lowry was elected an R.A., his works were widely exhibited throughout Britain and he was appointed the official artist at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. Furthermore, a stamp of one of his paintings was produced by the General Post Office and he was presented with an O.B.E., a C.B.E., a C.H. and a knighthood, all of which he refused.

A Fairground - A Fairground is a superb example of Lowry at his very best and the work has all of the crucial attributes of quality, fine condition and an impeccable, unbroken provenance. The charm of its subject matter - and its significance within Lowry’s artistic development - makes it one of his most important works ever to appear at auction. Painted in 1938, A Fairground has remained in the same private hands since it was purchased around 1950, having never been published. It therefore represents an exciting re-discovery after some 57 years away from the public eye. Furthermore, it signifies a new and momentous addition to the currently known body of work by the artist. The 1930s was a decade when Lowry honed his style into that which has made him one of Britain’s most collected artists. With its colour, noise, movement, crowds, opportunity for incident and Victorian heritage, a fair might seem like a natural theme for Lowry to explore but rather surprisingly it is one that he captured only on a rare number of occasions. Lowry did, however, produce a drawing entitled Beswick Fair between 1929-30 and it is highly likely that A Fairground might relate to this. He was often known to leave several years between executing the preliminary study for a work and then completing the related oil and this could perhaps have been the case in this situation. Beswick was a highly industrialised district to the east of Manchester’s city centre and every Christmas it would stage a large fair on an area of open ground known locally as ‘the croft’. The fair always attracted huge crowds of people, a scene which would clearly have intrigued Lowry. A Fairground is expected to fetch £700,000-1,000,000.

The Football Match - L.S.Lowry, The Football Match, Oil on canvas, Estimate in the region of £1 million The Football Match has all the qualities that have placed Lowry at the forefront of the 20th century British art market. The combination of the grand industrial setting and the human crowd around the football match make this a signature piece. It is a celebration of the place that football held in the heart of the ordinary working man at a time when the teams of the northwest dominated English football, with clubs like Manchester United, Bolton and Blackpool winning cups and titles year after year. Bringing together people and place, the picture truly encapsulates the golden age of football. Using just the merest of deft touches, Lowry fills the pitch with players whose varied states of animation contrast well with the densely packed crowds along the touchline.

The sale of this work follows on from the success of Lowry’s evocative and atmospheric painting, Going to the Match, which was sold at Sotheby’s in 1999 for £1.9 million, an unprecedented price at the time. Purchased by the Football Association, whose spokesman was quoted as saying that the picture represented “the heart and soul of the game”, the painting was a major landmark in the market for great sporting works of art. The £1.9 million achieved remained the world auction record for the artist until June of this year. The Football Match was exhibited alongside Going to the Match at the Lowry Museum in Salford in 2004 and the two compositions are widely recognised as being of a similar calibre. While Going to the Match - which was painted in 1953 - depicts the anticipation of the crowds going to the game and does not reference the pitch, players or ball, the game itself takes centre stage in The Football Match. The Football Match is estimated in the region of £1 million.

James Rawlin, Head of 20th Century British Art, Sotheby’s London, comments: “We are thrilled to be bringing these two masterpieces to the saleroom and we are confident that they will capture the imagination of the market. Both works display all of the qualities that make Lowry’s painting so accessible and they also show him at his very finest. A Fairground is a wonderful discovery while The Football Match draws from a subject which I’m sure will appeal to a very wide range of collectors.”










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