The Lowry: Clive & Lowry Exhibit

Despite having claimed to have disliked the village, LS Lowry moved to Mottram-in-Longdendale in 1948, into a modest home called The Elms, where he lived alone until his death in 1976. Although Lowry was a national figure by this point, other than an initial spurt of redecorating, the house remained largely unaltered. By the time Nova’s reporter, Barrie Sturt-Penrose, visited in 1966, he described it as ‘going dilapidated at the corners’ whilst other visitors regularly commented on how cold it was.

As a notoriously private man who disliked being disturbed at home, Lowry often greeted unexpected reporters with a somewhat frosty, dubious reception. This slightly wary approach to visitors is documented in Lowry at Home. A young photographer on one of his first professional jobs, Clive Arrowsmith was so eager to make the most of the meagre three rolls of film he had that he began shooting before Lowry even opened the door and was merely peeking through his curtains to investigate his guest’s identity.

Clive’s two day shoot with Lowry was commissioned by Nova magazine which, launched the previous year in 1965, had quickly become renowned for both its content and aesthetics. It covered previously taboo subjects such as contraception and racism, presented in a distinctive style which featured innovative artwork, radical fashion styling, and revolutionary layouts that saw provocative images juxtaposed with long, unbroken passages of prose or blank white space.

A graduate of Kingston College of Art, Clive Arrowsmith originally intended to make his living as a painter. After moving into graphic design he then worked on the television music show Ready, Steady, Go! where he first began taking photos. Clive’s first paid brief was to take photos of Lowry to accompany an article titled ‘LS Lowry: A Man of his People’ which coincided with a major touring exhibition of Lowry’s work opening that month in Sunderland. The article extended to six pages and included 23 of Clive’s photographs. The negatives of the featured images have not survived but, in 2016, Clive uncovered the other images from 1966 in his attic – many of which we have included in Lowry at Home: Salford 1966 where they are exhibited for the first time.

Possibly due to their shared fondness of Pre-Raphaelite paintings, Lowry seems to have warmed to Clive. This mutual interest, combined with Clive’s amiable presence that has since allowed him to put numerous famous sitters at ease to capture beautiful images, resulted in a wide range of photographs – some documenting a more genial, vulnerable version of Lowry than most photographers achieved.

In our exhibition we have included several of the images in which a more off-guard Lowry is depicted, and have shown these alongside photographs of the humble, unassuming domestic compositions found at The Elms. These quiet corners include a cracked kitchen sink and window, an old-fashioned range cooker draped with tea towels, and Lowry’s crowded ‘workroom’ complete with bundles of paintbrushes and stacks of canvases from which one can identify notable artworks in the making. In order to create a more visually arresting exhibition where visitors could experience a heightened level of intimacy with the images, we printed the photographs at large scales. This decision not only allows the audience to examine the scenes more intently, but also allows them to play with perspective and focus; walking closer to the images where they can get lost in the pixels or withdraw to gain the full picture.

Alongside the photos of Lowry and his home, Clive took his camera into the streets of Salford – one of Lowry’s key influences. Here he documented the thriving interracial community in an area undergoing significant changes in the wake of regeneration and a spate of ‘new wave’ dramas such as A Taste of Honey (1961), A Kind of Loving (1962) and This Sporting Life (1963) which propelled their stars and The North into the limelight with stories revolving around the struggles of homelessness, class and racial discrimination – all topics central to Nova’s content.

Lowry at Home not only documents the beginning of Clive’s incredibly successful career in photography but also records sides of Lowry’s personality and life that were previously unseen, allowing the public a glimpse into the world of one of our most respected artists.

Lowry: At Home is now in print & available