LS Lowry painting with figures ‘social distancing’ features in online exhibition

The picture  An Old Street was painted in 1937.
The picture An Old Street was painted in 1937.

A painting by LS Lowry that seems apt for socially distanced times has been included in a new online art exhibition.

The picture, An Old Street, painted in 1937, features in the Art-tastic exhibition, which has begun its virtual run at St Andrews Museum in Fife.

While the artist is known for his industrial landscapes and scenes crowded with matchstick-like figures, the people in the painting keep their distance from each other.

It was originally part of the collection belonging to Kirkcaldy linen manufacturer J W Blyth, the maternal grandfather of journalist and broadcaster Michael Portillo.

Michael Portillo
The painting once belonged to Michael Portillo’s grandfather (Ian West/PA)

Exhibition curator Lesley Lettice said: “Lowry’s industrial landscapes are often filled by people in close contact with one another – be it at sports events, in chip shop queues or heading home after a hard day’s work.

“An Old Street, by contrast, has only 11 figures, who, apart from what looks like two parents with their children, appear reluctant to get too close.

“It all seems very contemporary.”

The bulk of the Blyth Collection was bought by Kirkcaldy Town Council in the 1963.

An Old Street is now part of the collection managed by OnFife (Fife Cultural Trust), and is one of only seven works by Lowry to be held in Scotland’s public collections.

Art-tastic online art exhibition
The painting by LS Lowry seems apt for socially distanced times (Angus Blackburn/PA)

Mr Portillo said that art was his grandfather’s “passion”, and recalled visiting his Fife home, which was full of “heavy gilded frames”.

The former MP said: “As a child, I had a terror of passing beneath them on my way to bed, in case one fell and crushed me.

“He collected hundreds of paintings, many more than could fit into Wilby House.”

Other works on show as part of the Art-tastic exhibition include paintings by the renowned 20th century artist Sir William MacTaggart, arts and crafts painter John Duncan, as well as paintings of local scenes, such as Kilconquhar loch, Crail harbour, and the Isle of May.

Those logging on to view the artworks are being asked to create stories and verse inspired by the paintings.

More details about the exhibition can be found at bit.ly/2LALMr7