Jeanette Winterson writes about the paintings of LS Lowry on the occasion of the exhibition Lowry and the Painting of Modern Life at Tate Britain, London, on view from June 26 – October 20, 2013.
Winterson notes that "Dickens and Mrs Gaskell had written about Manchester. DH Lawrence found a language for the rough beauty of the Derbyshire mines. George Bernard Shaw, JB Priestley and George Orwell were fascinated by the culture of the industrial working class: its see-saw alcoholism and tee-totalism; its unrepentant godlessness versus its low-church evangelical fervour; its brawling brutality and sudden gentleness. But no one was painting it. 'My ambition was to put the industrial scene on the map, because nobody had done it – nobody had done it seriously.' That was his brief; it became his obsession. Lowry, the sensible night-school-trained amateur artist in search of a subject, was overtaken – possessed would be a better word – by an unconscious force far bigger than either the man or his mission-statement. For the rest of his life, he spoke of that moment seeing the Acme Mill in 1916 as his vision. He was as much a mystic as William Blake was with his 'dark satanic mills,' or WB Yeats's 'foul rag and bone shop of the heart.' "