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  • Monday Closed
  • Tuesday Closed
  • Wednesday 10am - 4pm
  • Thursday 10am - 4pm
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  • Monday Closed
  • Tuesday Closed
  • Wednesday 10am - 4pm
  • Thursday 10am - 4pm
  • Friday 10am - 4pm
  • Saturday 10am - 4pm
  • Sunday 10am - 4pm
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L.S. Lowry's 'Beach Scene'

Laurence Stephen Lowry (1887-1976) is an artist well known for his depictions of forbidding industrial scenes of  North West England.  He is less well known for his paintings of the North East coast, particularly of England’s northernmost town Berwick upon Tweed, of which he produced roughly 30 finished works.

Berwick is rightly proud of its strong resident artistic community and traditions, in particular its connections with LS Lowry.  There is much anecdotal evidence of Lowry’s interactions with Berwick’s townsfolk. In 2003 there was a great local outcry when the shelter on Berwick beach – locally treasured because Lowry had painted it in 1959 – was threatened with demolition.  This led to the Berwick Preservation Trust creating a Lowry Trail; this five-mile signposted route encourages visitors to walk in Lowry’s footsteps, with viewing points showing the artist’s paintings and drawings from the spot he painted them from.

Lowry’s first known depiction of Berwick is of Marygate and dated 1935, and two of his paintings were shown at his first one-man exhibition in London in 1939.  He continued to visit Berwick until the year before his death in 1976.

It is not difficult to see the attraction of Berwick to the artist.  Its ancient and picturesque buildings have remained almost unchanged since they were built, and the old walled town overlooks the River Tweed estuary and the North Sea coast.   Lowry was very fond indeed of Berwick; to the extent that he seriously considered moving to the town and buying the Lion House, situated on the walls overlooking the sea.

He certainly holidayed in Berwick regularly from 1939 on, staying at the Castle Hotel, beside the (decidedly grimy and unpicturesque) goods yards and steam trains of the railway station.  Marjorie Ellison, a receptionist at the hotel remembers –

“ If the weather was inclement and too wet to go out, Lowry sat in the lounge…and read and spent his time with his drawing pad…He used to draw special pictures for me including my portrait…at the time I never thought of him as an artist or famous…”

The assertion by Lowry –

“Poverty and gloom.  Never a joyous picture of mine you’ll see…I never do a jolly picture”

is belied by his much-reproduced Berwick seaside paintings of children and dogs frolicking around the shelter behind Berwick pier or on the sands.  The same could be said of “Beach Scene”, identified as being a view of the beach and dunes at the south end of Spittal’s promenade.

Spittal, a former fishing village on the opposite side of the river to Berwick, became a popular tourist resort in Victorian times, made popular with the coming of the railways in 1850.  The village was a favoured walking place for Lowry, who probably reached it by travelling on the ferry across the estuary.

The picture is produced in thick impasto oil paint and employs a light pastel palette of colours not often seen in his townscapes.  It shows the ebb and flow of a crowd of holidaymakers, in much the same kind of formation as the figures in the artist’s urban scenes.  These people, however, are seemingly in their best holiday clothes.  Perhaps they are watching the yachts tacking across the background of the painting, painted in by a few deft strokes of Lowry’s fully charged brush.

Though there have been exhibitions of Lowry’s work in Berwick, no example of the artist’s work has ever been retained for a public institution in Berwick until now.

Painting by LS Lowry to go on permanent display at Berwick Museum and Art Gallery - image Colin Davidson

Acquired with Art Fund support (with a contribution from the Wolfson Foundation), the V&A Purchase Grant Fund, the Friends of Berwick and District Museum & Archives, the Guild of Freemen of Berwick upon Tweed.