Figures Before Railings is a signed lithograph in colour made by L.S Lowry, one of the most iconic British painters of the 20th century. In this print, Lowry depicts an everyday scene, showing various anonymous people walking about outdoors. The print reflects Lowry’s desire to capture urban life in the north west of England. The artist was born in Stretford, Lancashire, however moved to Pendlebury near Manchester, a city where he drew much artistic inspiration.
The colours Lowry uses in this print are dark and muted, with grey, blue and brown dominating the composition. Lowry is known for working with a restricted colour palette, privileging five colours- white, ivory black, vermilion, Prussian blue and yellow ochre for his landscapes, cityscapes, seascapes and portraits. The lack of colour is meant to reflect the monotony and seriality of urban life.
The figures that Lowry depicts in the print are all very similar and lack distinguishing features. This has become a trademark of Lowry’s visual style. Termed ‘matchstick men’ the indistinct figures have been criticised for their lack of individualism, however this is intentional, as Lowry creates generalised cityscapes, also known as a ‘Lowryscape’ with a pre-determined iconography, which the artist uses to capture elements of the industrial north.