Maggi Hambling and LS Lowry – the sea

The Lowry at salford Quays

The Lowry at Salford Quays

Last Sunday we decided to visit the Lowry in Salford to look at the exhibition of paintings of the sea by Magi Hambling and L S Lowry. We’d enjoyed Hambling’s pictures in the exhibition of her paintings of George Melly – “George Always” – that we’d seen at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool earlier this year.

In reality, the exhibition was mainly devoted to Maggi Hambling with a large number of paintings,  with some lithographs and sculptures, she had created inspired by the North Sea in Suffolk. I guess the inclusion of paintings by Lowry was really because the exhibition was  taking place in the gallery named after him and partly created to house the collection of his works owned by Salford council.  The Lowry pictures were displayed very much on their own and separate from Hambling’s and there really wasn’t any attempt to compare them, and the two painter’s different approaches to the same subject.

Maggi Hambling  started painting the North Sea  on the Suffolk Coast in 2002, while she was waiting for permission to build “Scallop”, her monument to Benjamin Britten on Aldeburgh beach. They are very powerful, illustrating a violent, stormy sea.  Rather than paint a seascape, her pictures concentrate on close-ups of the waves – and while viewing them you feel as if you are in the sea amongst the waves – in some cases it is almost as if you are engulfed by them.


In contrast, Lowry’s pictures, which were painted towards the end of his life, take a broader view and are more like traditional seascapes.The pictures were much smaller in scale than most of Hambling’s.  His seas are, in the main, much more sedate. Even where he paints a stormy sea, the waves are viewed from afar so the effect was much less dramatic, and looking at them I felt more like a passive observer than when viewing Hambling’s work. I liked them, but they didn’t engage the viewer and draw you in the way Hambling’s did.

Lowry seascape

"The Sea" by L S Lowry (1963)

There’s an  audio sideshow from the BBC about Maggi Hambling’s North sea paintings.

LS Lowry & Maggi Hambling: The Sea from Rob Martin on Vimeo.

Afternoon at Salford Quays

The Lowry

The Lowry

Had  a good day out at Salford Quays today.The old Manchester docks at the end of the Manchester ship canal were renovated and “yuppified” in the 1990’s. This included building the Lowry, an arts centre with theatres and an art gallery to house Salford council’s collection of paintings by L S Lowry.

The collection is “free” to visit  but they put a lot of pressure on you to pay a “voluntary” donation. You have to opt out of paying when you collect the ticket to enter the collection. I can understand them wanting to bring in funds but I don’t like the way they do this. As we weren’t stopping too long we would have had a quick look at some of the paintings, but didn’t bother – we were put off by this money raising tactic. I would only really want to pay if I was spending a bit more time there and viewing the paintings properly. I guess the same would apply with other people who would be embarrassed to refuse to shell out. I can sympathise with their desire to raise funds to support the collection, but there must be a better way.

We did, however, walk over the ship canal to visit the Imperial War Museum North. We had a look round the collection. In many ways, the main attraction of the IWM is the building itself, designed by Daniel Libeskind .

Imperial War Museum North

Imperial War Museum North

The exhibition is interesting but I always feel that it lacks the “hardware” would be of interest to many people – especially teenage boys! The building design means that there is a lot of space inside the exhibition hall and this  is utilised for multimedia shows with images projected all over the walls and commentary, including recordings of the thoughts and reflections of people who have been affected by was. There are 3 different shows, which are shown periodically throughout the day. During our quick visit we only had time to watch one of them.

The building is meant to represent  a globe shattered into fragments and then reassembled as an emblem of conflict.  It is made up of three “shards” representing earth, air, and water. One of the shards – that representing the air – is a tower and for a nominal charge (the exhibition is free to visit) you can take the lift to the top (or the steps if you feel fit enough!) for a view over the Quays.


Looking over Salford Quays

Looking over Salford Quays