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Lowry leaves a large legacy; WEEKEND COLLECTING.

Few of us are in a position to collect old master paintings. Yet for those with the ability to recognise talent, an eye for what makes a good picture and who have a gambler's lucky streak, the works of contemporary artists can sometimes produce richrewa rds.

Take, for example, the case of Lawrence Stephen Lowry, the Manchester artist whose paintings of Northern grimy industrial scenes and the "matchstick" men and women from the area were still a joke to the public a few decades ago.

London art dealer Andras Kalman from the Crane Kalman Gallery, was one of those who remembered Lowry in 1949 when his pictures cost pounds 20-pounds 60.

On Wednesday, Sotheby's New Bond Street saleroom in London will be selling the biggest collection of Lowry works ever to be sold at auction. It is expected that they will fetch between pounds 350,000 and pounds 500,000.

It is a figure which Lowry himself would never have believed - several of the works are expected to sell for up to pounds 60,000 apiece.

Yet the artist made only modest amounts from his work. Indeed, some were even given to friends, acquaintances and even casual callers.

Lowry was aged 87 when he died in 1976. "A simple man" was how he described himself. He is believed to have turned out some 3,500 to 4,000 drawings and paintings. His distinctive matchstick-figure style, at first derided by the public, has found itsown niche with dedicated Lowry followers and the value of his works has increased steadily since his death.

Lowry had never smoked a cigarette, drunk an alcoholic drink, never married, or even had a girlfriend. He had never driven a car, flown in a plane or travelled abroad.

A man who never owned a television set, Lowry banned the telephone from his home until he was almost 80 years old.

The collection of Lowry's work being sold on Wednesday was gathered during a period of 30 years by Mr Joseph Fitton, a Meteorological Officer in the RAFVR during the war. He later became a successful businessman in the cotton industry and a supporter of the arts and music in the North.

Mr Fitton befriended the artist, and for the last 15 years of his life, developed a passion for some of the least known aspects of Lowry's extraordinary output.

Susannah Pollen, Head of Sotheby's Modern British and Irish Art department, said: "This collection is exceptional because it covers every aspect of Lowry's subject matter. It is also a testament to the 15-year friendship between the artist and Mr Fitton. "

The Fitton Collection spans 66 years in Lowry's career and includes examples of Lowry's early life drawings and studies from the antique, to the late and sometimes surreal sketches of the 1970s.

Lowry's welnown preoccupation with the industrial North West is represented by the last industrial scene he ever painted, an oil from 1963 depicting a working-class street in or around his native Manchester. It is estimated at pounds 40,000-pounds 60,000 .

Lowry's travels to the isolated Pennine moors, Cornwall and North Shields are recorded in drawings of tin-mines, railway stations, deserted mansions and remarkably abstract views of lakes and hills with estimates ranging from pounds 400 to pounds 6,000.

Mr Fitton who knew Lowry for about 20 years, met him in 1957 at a cafe in Manchester.

Mr Fitton added "Lowry shared my love of music, in particular opera and chamber music and of the theatre (he loved Pirandello). His fear was to appear parochial. So you will appreciate that with art to talk about and all that our quite frequent meetings were never dull."

Lowry spent childhood summers at Lytham, on the North East coast of England, and from early on he was fascinated with the sailing yachts, the sea and the vast tankers and trawlers entering Sunderland harbour. Many years later, as an old man, Lowry return ed to the Seaburn Hotel in Sunderland and reproduced the activity around the harbour. However, age gave Lowry's subject matter a dimension beyond realism and the views of the North East coast became increasingly metaphorical. Tanker Entering Sunderland H arbour, a drawing on pencil from 1963, is an example of this phase in Lowry's career. It is estimated at pounds 3,000-pounds 5,000.

Lowry never ceased to draw and it was towards the end of his career that he became most interested in the human figure. Two works on paper executed 37 years apart, Woman in a Cloche Hat from 1924 and Portrait of a Boy from 1961, are perfect examplesof h is continued interest in idealised portraits. The first is estimated at pounds 6,000-pounds 8,000 while the latter is expected to fetch pounds 60,000- pounds 80,000.

On Christmas Eve in 1930 an unknown person rang Lowry's doorbell but left before the artist opened the door. Lowry never knew who the caller was but he recorded the event in a somewhat mysterious work which shows a shadowy figure wearing a hat, seenthro ugh the artist's glazed front door. It is estimated at pounds 4,000-pounds 6,000.

Lowry revealed all that is mundane, comic and weird in human behaviour by acutely observing his everyday life and by bringing into focus single figures or groups from his industrial panoramas of the 1940s and 1950s. Grotesque Figures a drawing from 1970, is estimated at pounds 6,000-pounds 8,000 while Drunken Man, signed and dated 1960, is expected to fetch pounds 5,000-pounds 7,000.

On Wednesday, one of Britain's biggest and most popular antiques and collectables fairs, "Big Brum" will be held in the Rag Market in Edgbaston Street, behind St Martin's in the Bull Ring. Starting at 7.30am it runs until just after lunch.

Demand for more space to display furniture and other bulky items has led Bowman Antiques Fairs to open another furniture area for its three-day fair which begins on Friday, June 12.

Held at Bingley Hall on the Staffordshire County Showground, Weston Road, Stone, the fair is open from 10am-5pm daily.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jun 6, 1998
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