Painted when Britain was at war, Britain At Play is a typical scene by L. S. Lowry from 1943, showing crowds of people on their day off at Angel Fields park in Manchester. In the foreground are some terraced houses depicted in yellow ochre and outlined in black, with Lowry’s ‘matchstick-men’ wandering along the street. As the composition moves backwards, we see hundreds of figures in the park space and the scene fades out onto the industrial landscape behind.
Though claiming to depict a real place through the language of stylised realism, Lowry’s Britain At Play is a composite image created from memory.The top of the composition shows Lowry’s famed depictions of the industrial smokestacks and factories. Notably, there seems to be no distinction between the natural and the industrial as we see the smoke from the mills fade into the sky and clouds. Lowry’s figures therefore become naturalised within the industrial environment.
Teeming with tiny figures across the entire canvas, this vibrant print is a classic example of Lowry depicting city crowds on holiday. Much like many of his urban landscapes, Britain At Play is a celebration of the northern industrial working class experience.