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Though known largely for his stylised, two-dimensional ‘matchstick men,’ Lowry’s Figures series demonstrates his real skill as portrait painter. S. Lowry was also a skilled portraitist. His portraits have received less critical attention than his Industrial Scenes or his Town and Street Scenes, but recent trends in scholarship have been focusing on reappraising Lowry as an underrated portraitist, opening the door for newly-found appreciation of the artist.
One of the epitomes that stuck with Lowry the most, to the artist’s admittance, was that of being a naive “Sunday painter”. While Lowry is now widely and critically appreciated as one of the most meaningful British artists of the 20th century, this critical appraisal was not always as strong. Initially, Lowry’s stylised and repetitive depictions of the North, which his paintings have come to visually signify, were dismissed as the work of a skill-less amateurish artist. Lowry, however, was dedicated to his craft and spent most of his nights painting and training under the Impressionist painter Adolphe Valette. While many have already claimed that Lowry’s choice of colour palette shares little with the Impressionist love for colours, Lowry and Impressionist painters nonetheless shared a fascination for stylised depictions of people entertaining themselves in the urban environment, suffice to think of Gustave Caillebotte's Le Ponte De l’Europe, which has been the focus of much recent interest and different exhibitions.