Lowry's Repetition

Lowry’s status as a ‘local’ painter is not usually staked on this kind of topographical exactitude, however, and if he came to be thought of in Manchester as a pre-eminently local artist, a painter of Manchester for Manchester, this was on the basis of his vast output of imaginary landscapes. Those made in the late 1920s through to the war years, in particular, are made from a few repeated motifs, different each time they appear but similar enough to persuade us that we have seen them before, that they are known to us, part of the familiar furniture of his city... The repetitiveness in these pictures has been seen as evidence of Lowry’s limitations; the narrowness of his interests and imagination, what he himself described as his ‘obsession’ with the industrial landscape of Pendlebury. For Wagner, however, repetitiveness was vital to Lowry’s project as a local painter. Sooner or later these repetitions would come to seem merely repetitive, ‘run of the mill’ as she puts it, and something else would have to be tried; but until that time ‘they were a way of matching his pictures’ rhythm to the life of the street. Repetition … offered a means to expand the components of a single city street – chimneys and smokestacks, doors and windows, stairways and fences, men and women – into a world that seems cohesive, complete.’

John Barrell, "At tate Britain: L.S. Lowry," London Review of Books -  http://bit.ly/1e12xOu

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