Laurence Stephen Lowry was born in Old Trafford, Manchester (UK), on November 1st, 1887. He moved to Pendlebury in Salford with his parents in 1909, where he was to live for nearly 40 years. Despite the inexorable link between Lowry and working class life, he did not grow up in poverty. He was not naturally academic and passed no exams, but it was decided that he should enroll at Manchester School of Art which he did in 1905, for evening classes. He joined Salford School of Art for evening classes in 1915, which is where his work on the ‘matchstick’ figures developed.
He had his first job in 1904 where he ‘drifted into’ office work as a clerk with a Manchester accountant. In 1910 Lowry took a job with a property company in Manchester as a rent collector, and stayed with them for the next 42 years. He spent much of his working life walking the poorest streets of Manchester and its surrounding area, and this is where his vision formed. Lowry first exhibited in 1919 at Manchester Art Gallery. By 1945 Lowry had had 3 exhibitions and was starting to establish himself. By the 1950s the Royal Academy had invited him to join and his fame and success were assured.
Lowry always claimed loneliness and dissatisfaction, but one wonders to what degree he really craved anything different. As he said himself, ‘Had I not been lonely, none of my work would have happened.’ He did not just paint northern scenes, and visited the south coast looking for ships and ferries to paint. He also painted a a small number of pictures of London, including one of Piccadilly Circus, with his trademark ‘matchstick people’ wearing bowler hats and London fashions. By the early 1930s he was exhibiting at the Royal Academy in London. He was awarded an honourary MA at Manchester University in 1945, and Doctor of Letters in 1961, elected to the Royal Academy in 1962, and given freedom of the City of Salford in 1965 - many other honours followed later.
He left Pendlebury in 1948 when the landlord repossessed the house. He moved to Mottram-in-Longdendale, Cheshire, where he lived until he died in 1976. During his life Lowry had painted and drawn some 2000-3000 pieces. Harold Wilson had offered him a knighthood and had used ‘The Pond’ as his official christmas card in 1964. Lowry’s picture ‘Coming out of school’ was the highest value stamp in a series depicting great British artists in 1967.