LONDON, 19 October 2021 – One of Britain's most beloved artists, #lslowry and his works have been a mainstay at auctions for decades. What is lesser known is that he once turned his hand to painting an auction taking place, resulting in a bustling scene characteristic of the artist. Populated by familiar characters, and even a dog on a lead, The Auction transports the viewer into the centre of the action, with the auctioneer on the rostrum poised to bring the gavel down.
Executed on a large-scale in 1958, the work has never been offered at auction, and was acquired by the present owners over two decades ago. It was exhibited at Lowry's landmark retrospective at the Royal Academy in 1976 and was last shown at AMNUA in Nanjing in China in 2014. The Auction will now star in Sotheby's Modern British Art auction in #London on 23 November with an estimate of £1,200,000 – 1,800,000, ahead of which it will be exhibited to the public from 18 – 22 November.
Lowry only ever painted a small handful of interior scenes – intimate family groups, a doctor's surgery, an election rally and an outpatients' hall – in each instance choosing subjects that resonated with him. As early as the 1920s, Lowry touched on the subject of auctions with a drawing titled Selling Up the Old Antiques Shop. Another painting, Jackson's Auction and Saleroom from 1952, depicts the exterior of the auction house in Manchester, with furniture amassed outside. In The Auction, this longstanding interest comes to its apex, and the viewer is shown the full glory of a sale in action for the first and only time. Paintings are stacked high and cabinets are busy being viewed, and through the hustle and bustle and rows of attendees, the auctioneer is elevated and about to seal the sale – a moment that would cause emotions from joy to disappointment for the buyer, underbidder or seller. There is a distinct sense of drama unfolding on a stage, which no doubt appealed to Lowry, who enjoyed many visits to the theatre.
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