‘Celebrating Manchester’s Artistic Heritage’

‘Celebrating Manchester’s Artistic Heritage’

Never Before Seen in Public: L.S. Lowry Painting Gifted by the Artist to John Rowe Townsend, who designed and produced the Manchester Guardian Survey of Industry, 1953


Works from the Collection of Margaret Pilkington, a Pioneering Supporter of the Arts in Manchester in the Early 20th Century


On 18 – 19 October, Sotheby’s London will offer for sale a range of important works by leading British Post- War and Modern artists, a selection of which are closely associated with Manchester’s celebrated artists and its historic art scene. These works include a painting by L.S. Lowry, originally gifted by the artist to children’s author and journalist John Rowe Townsend – creator of the Manchester Guardian Survey of Industry - and a painting from the collection of Margaret Pilkington, a pioneering supporter of the arts in Manchester in the early twentieth century. These works will be offered at auction as part of Sotheby’s sale of Modern & Post-War British Art.


Never before seen in public, Outside the Factory by L.S. Lowry (est.  £200,000 — 300,000,  illustrated above, top left), is a painting that showcases Manchester’s best-known and best-loved artist at his very finest. The painting encapsulates the central themes of Lowry’s work, portraying both work and play in a single composition that is brimming with activity. The scene provides a snapshot of the world of the factory- worker with terraces and mills occupying the same space, and the very public theatre of everyday life played out on in the streets of the early 1950s.


Frances Christie, Head of Sotheby’s Post-War & Modern Art Department said:


Outside the Factory showcases L.S. Lowry at his very best, presenting the themes for which the artist is known so well. This painting has never before been seen in public, and as we saw with the sale of A.J. Thompson’s collection of works by Lowry at Sotheby’s earlier this year, the market responds with great enthusiasm to works that are fresh to the market - particularly when they are offered at auction for the first time, as is the case with this painting.


The work was a gift from the artist to John Rowe Townsend, who designed and produced the Manchester Guardian Survey of Industry, a 1953 publication that discussed the rise and fall of local industry which was illustrated with another painting by the artist. Lowry presented Townsend with his painting Outside the Factory to express his gratitude for a profile Townsend wrote on the artist for The Observer, on the occasion of his election as an Associate member of the Royal Academy in 1955.


The sale will also feature a drawing by Lowry, titled Group of Nine Figures (est. £25,000 –  35,000, illustrated - top middle).


Margaret Pilkington (1891 – 1974) was a talented artist, patron and key supporter of the arts in Manchester in the early twentieth century, whose legacy lies in her commitment to promoting art, with a focus on introducing art to a broader audience across society. Pilkington was the first female director of a major British gallery, and held the position of Honorary Director of Manchester’s Whitworth Art Gallery for over twenty years – in which there is now  a  central  exhibition  room named after her.


Margaret Pilkington and Sir Stanley Spencer R.A. were well acquainted - he was commissioned to draw her portrait by the Friends of the Whitworth Art Gallery (illustrated above but  not offered  for sale, © The Leeds Museum & Galleries / Bridgeman Images). His painting Greenhouse Interior (illustrated top right, est. £180,000 – 250,000) is a celebrated work from her personal collection.


Painted around 1935, the piece captures a particularly verdant and exotically coloured corner of  an  English  greenhouse,  replete  with  Victorian chequerboard tiled floor. Known for his visionary figure paintings which featured scenes from the Bible set in his home village of Cookham, Spencer also painted still life and landscape works. Indeed the periods during which he concentrated on nature served as peaceful intervals from his domestic troubles and these works proved to be in high demand with his dealer Dudley Tooth.