One of L. S. Lowry’s very early paintings, unseen by the public since 1926, is on view for the first time at Pallant House Gallery. Bought for £10 by the then literary editor of the Manchester Guardian, Arthur S Wallace, the painting, ‘Going to the Mill’, has been kept in his family for the past 87 years.
An early, and rare fan of the painter for the time, Wallace promoted three of Lowry's pictures in a supplement he edited in October 1926 to support 'Civic Week'. Organised by Manchester City Council, the week of festivities aimed to create a sense of pride in the workers and discourage them from going on strike.
Wallace included reproductions of three of Lowry's paintings as 'impressions of industrial Lancashire' in the 100-page colour supplement, which ran from 2nd - 9th October. These included 'The Quarrel', 'A Manufacturing Town' and 'Going to the Mill'.
Wallace went on to buy 'Going to the Mill' and Lowry then gave him another painting, 'A Manufacturing Town', as a 'souvenir of the Civic Week'.
'A Manufacturing Town' was sold in 1968 when two of Wallace's granddaughters got married in the same year. It was later bought by the Science Museum and is currently on show in the Lowry Exhibition at the Tate Gallery as an example of one of his early paintings.
Lowry was still alive when it was sold in 1968. When a journalist asked his opinion of the sale, he said "Mr. Wallace enjoyed that picture all his lifetime. I'm pleased if his family will be helped by the sale. He was a very nice chap, very helpful to me, and giving a picture to him then was no sacrifice. They were bringing nothing, nobody would buy them for years after that. Good luck to his family with it".
'Going to the Mill' has been loaned to Pallant House Gallery by Arthur Wallace's family, having hung for many years in the sitting room of the family house in Ockley, Surrey. The painting has since been cleaned and is on display among the 20th Century Landscapes collection.
Simon Martin, Head of Curatorial Services at Pallant House Gallery says: "It is a real pleasure for Pallant House Gallery to show this important early example of L. S. Lowry's industrial cityscapes. The current major retrospective at Tate Britain demonstrates how the artist's paintings continue to connect with contemporary audiences, but it is also rare for a gallery to be able to show a little-known work with such a fascinating story, which has remained in private hands for nearly 90 years."
Dale Thomson, granddaughter of Arthur Wallace says: "The whole family are very proud that our grandfather was the first person to give Lowry publicity and the first to buy one of his pictures at a time when nobody else was interested. We hope others will now enjoy the painting we've known and loved as a family for 87 years."