Painted in 1947, A River Bank is a large scale industrial landscape in which Lowry has combined elements to create the composition. It is based on the River Irwell, which flows close to the Salford School of Art and the Salford Art Gallery. Lowry made a number of topographical drawings from both sides of the river and it became an important subject for him. In this painting Lowry has included the distinctive topographical feature of the windmill, built between 1831 and 1848, which pumped polluted water out of the river into reservoirs in which the sediment could settle and the clean water was then used in the nearby dye works. The windmill was, however, demolished between 1949 and 1955, soon after Lowry painted this picture.
Judith Sandling writes, 'Not content with a realistic rendition of this site, Lowry painted a topographical/composite version [the present work]. The east side of the river is accurately rendered, but the river itself has undergone a transformation. It is no longer a narrow stretch of water navigable only by small boats, but a large body capable of accomodating the large ships that can be seen floating in it. The park, on the other side of the river, has also been changed from a rural setting to an industrialised site' (see J. Sandling and M. Leber, Lowry's City: A Painter and his Locale, Salford, 2000, p. 39).
The figures that Lowry has included in A River Bank seem dwarfed by the industrial lanscape that surrounds them. Writing about Lowry's earlier painting The Lake, 1937 (The Lowry, Salford) Michael Howard comments, 'What is the value, Lowry seems to be saying, of all this industrial frenzy in the face of our major spiritual concerns, our metaphysical loneliness and our disregard for our fellow man and the environment in which we live? Lowry's art, although informed by literature, theatre, film and art, is essentially a response to his private experience and he remains, like Blake, profoundly personal and inimitable. He shares with many the acceptance of 'nothingness' as the source of true reality' (see Lowry: A Visionary Artist, Salford, 2000, p. 157).
L.S. Lowry had been a president of Bury Art Society and a regular visitor to the Art Gallery, and in recognition of this, he arranged with his dealer, Lefevre, to offer The County Borough of Bury their pick of three paintings. They chose the present work and their selection and the sum paid of £175 is recorded in the minutes of the Borough Council.
Nocturnal Girl by local artist David Horan was donated to Bury Art Gallery by L.S. Lowry in 1964.
A River Bank
Oil on canvas
THE PROPERTY OF BURY METROPOLITAN BOROUGH COUNCIL
Signed and dated 'L.S. LOWRY 1947' (lower right)
Laurence Stephen Lowry, R.A
London, British Council Fine Arts Department, Contemporary British Art, Europe, 1948-49, no. 18.
Wakefield, Art Gallery, Paintings and Drawings by Lowry, Herman and pottery by Azaz, May - June 1955, no. 17.
Bury, Art Gallery, Exhibition of the Works of L.S. Lowry, R.A., June - July 1962, no. 35.
Sheffield, Graves Art Gallery, The Works of L.S. Lowry, R.A., September - October 1962, no. 44.
Kendal, Abbot Hall Art Gallery, L.S. Lowry, 1964, no. 21.
Sunderland, Arts Council, Sunderland Art Gallery, L.S. Lowry, 1966-67, no. 56: this exhibition travelled to Manchester, Whitworth Art Gallery; Bristol, Art Gallery; and London, Tate Gallery.
Swinton, Public Library, L.S. Lowry, 1970, no. 20.
Accrington, Haworth Art Gallery, Paintings and Drawings by L.S. Lowry, R.A., September 1971, no. 55.
Leigh, Turnpike Gallery, Paintings and Drawings by L.S. Lowry, 1972, no. 50.
Bury, Art Gallery and Museum, Spirit of the Sea: An Exhibition of Marine Art and Ship Models, October 1981 - January 1982, not numbered: this exhibition travelled to Preston, Harris Museum and Art Gallery, January - February 1982; and Oldham, Art Gallery, March - April 1982.
Stalybridge, Cheshire, Astley Cheetham Art Gallery, Works by L.S. Lowry, November - December 1983, no. 3.
Salford, City Art Gallery, L.S. Lowry Centenary Exhibition, October - November 1987, no. 145.
British & Irish Art
28 x 36 in. (71.1 x 91.5 cm.)
M. Leber and J. Sandling (eds.), L.S. Lowry, Salford, 1987, no. 10, p. 100, illustrated.
Exhibition catalogue, L.S. Lowry Centenary Exhibition, Salford, City Art Gallery, 1987, no. 145.
J. Sandling and M. Leber, Lowry's City: A Painter and his Locale, Salford, 2000, p. 39, illustrated.
with Lefevre Gallery, London, April 1951, where purchased by The County Borough of Bury, subsequently created Bury Metropolitan Borough Council by statute on 1 April 1974.