L.S. Lowry’s ‘The Fever Van’Partners in Art

Walker Gallery, Liverpool
From 5th June till 15th August

Reviewed by E. Hughes

I have always loved the Walker, in fact have always loved the Museum, Walker Art Gallery and the Library on William Brown Street. In museums, art galleries and libraries at least, Liverpool excels and is world class.

After walking around for five minutes, I eventually stumble, as people always seem to, on the ‘Partners in Art’, an exhibition to celebrate the collaboration between Manchester Art Gallery and the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool. Mancs and Scousers unite!!!

Seriously, there are some well known painters and paintings here, and many other unknown painters and their paintings; there are paintings here by Lucian Freud and even one by L.S. Lowry, but most of the others are relative unknowns, many of them also being born in the 19th century too. They are not actually necessarily Liverpool or Manchester artists, which is a little surprising, nor Liverpool or Manchester subjects; some of them are paintings of London, and even Ned Kelly’s death mask makes a guest appearance in one painting!

I am particularly taken with Freud’s ‘Girl with a Beret’ and his statement that “the task of the artist is to make the human being uncomfortable.” There are numerous beautiful paintings, in all sorts of styles, and again, I pick out William Denis Eden’s ‘Grishelda at the ‘Wheatsheaf’’ which is a very Edwardian, even late-Edwardian, overly stylised painting of the artist’s wife, opening a map in an inn, for directions! It is a beautiful and timeless piece, and curiously ancient and modern at the same time. William Denis Eden was also incidentally born in Liverpool.

L.S. Lowry’s ‘The Fever Van’ depicts a grim Manchester scene, with crowds scurrying around an ambulance; this is a bleak painting, and though many salute him for his honest and gritty realism, I am not really moved by this. One of the paintings that really stands out for me is ‘Townscape’ by Algernon Newton; it is a painting of crumbling regency houses in North London, which is magnificently tying to portray the scene as somehow grand, eloquent and of worth, even though the place is commonplace and the people look poor and ordinary. Newton studied the Venetian painter Canaletto, and applied the Italian master’s lighting techniques to his own paintings. Newton said “a gasometer can make as beautiful a picture as a palace on the Grand Canal, it simply depends on the artist’s vision.”, and who can disagree with that?

Sandra Martin, principal curator of fine art, Manchester Art Gallery says “we are delighted to be working with the Walker. Laurence Lane’s LIV/MAN work is the perfect contemporary art piece to show in Liverpool and Manchester, as it provides a fascinating insight into the relationship between our two cities.”

This interesting piece by Laurence Lane, in the Walker, is a recorded tape of Mancunians talking about Liverpool, and in the Manchester Art Gallery, it is a recorded tape of Scousers giving their opinions of Manchester and Mancunians. It is an interesting piece, and quite funny too.

The Walker is always well worth a visit, as they regularly put on new exhibitions all the time, and this exhibition particularly is worth having a look at for the very good collection of paintings, and some sculptures, that are on show.