In one week’s time a previously unknown painting by L S Lowry will go up for auction.
For seventy years Lowry’s painting, The Mill, Pendlebury, was not only lost to the world, the world did not know it had ever been painted. But last month it reemerged for the first time this century.
Painted in 1943, The Mill doesn’t depict the working day we have come to associate with Lowry. Instead it is a Sunday or a bank holiday scene, with snow covered streets, workers, children and dogs milling around, and at the centre, a group playing cricket. It is typical of Lowry’s world-renowned figures amid an industrial scene. To the right of the painting is the Acme Spinning Company Mill, which inspired Lowry to paint his first industrial scene in 1916.
“Unusually for Lowry, this is quite a happy painting,” says the Head of Modern British & Irish Art, Nick Orchard, of Christie’s auction house in London. “The atmosphere is relaxed, and people are interacting with each other rather than streaming en masse into work.”
The Mill was gifted to Dr. Leonard D. Hamilton by his parents, having been acquired directly from the Lowry during the 1940s when the family lived in Manchester, and, as Orchard, told the BBC, “There are no records of it; we simply didn’t know it existed.”
The painting even has links to the Nobel Prize. It hung in Hamilton’s wall in his student accommodation while studying in Oxford. He would go on to play a key role in discovering the structure of DNA. He later moved to New York, and the The Mill has been in the United States ever since.
“Of course today we think ‘oh wow, a Lowry’ but in the 1940s he wasn’t represented by a major dealer or gallery,” Orchard told the BBC. “He most likely would’ve only shown his work locally or maybe to people he knew.”
Now the artwork will go up as part of Christie’s Modern British Art sale, and is estimated to fetch between £700,000 and £1 million.
Lowry’s 1938 work A Cricket Match sold for nearly £1.2m at auction in 2019. Two works hold the record auction sale price for LS Lowry: The Football Match and Piccadilly Circus both sold for £5.6m in 2011.