In one clear case where life is imitating art, a painting by LS Lowry showing a full auction house with a hammer just before an auction is being sold at Sotheby’s next month. It is estimated at up to 1.8 million pounds.
The auction, a large format work completed in 1958, is one of just a handful of interior scenes by the Lancashire-born painter who became one of Britain’s most popular artists.
The picture shows a busy auction house full of people walking around or crammed onto benches. There are well-known characters from Lowry’s urban outdoor landscapes: a dog on a leash, a toddler sitting in a stroller. Further back the auctioneer and his employees stand on a podium; paintings are stacked on each side and furniture for sale is stacked.
The painting “captures the noise of an auction in a way that only Lowry with his distinctive iconography could,” said Frances Christie, vice chairwoman of Sotheby’s UK and Ireland.
Lowry, a passionate collector of clocks and Pre-Raphaelite art, regularly attended auctions in Manchester and London. “He often followed his own pictures that later went through Sotheby’s and had an appreciation for his work that was in complete contrast to the early days of his career when he battled for recognition,” said Christie.
“The delightful cycle of The Auction’s appearance at Sotheby’s would undoubtedly have satisfied Lowry’s ironic humor.”
Lowry, a humble man who declined honors including an accolade, found success as an artist in his later years. Although he did not sell a single work at his first exhibition in 1921, his paintings were on view in auction houses before his death in 1976 at the age of 88.
Charlie Minter, Sotheby’s modern art specialist, said, “Lowry very rarely did interiors. We know his cityscapes in factories and townhouses very well, but that has to do with his fascination with this aspect of the art world and the lives of the people involved in buying and selling.
“As a social observer, he would have loved this scene, the theater of an auction. It’s got the Lowry magic, it’s very vivid, it’s like a snapshot of how auctions used to be. They are now more formal and professional. “
The record price for a Lowry is held by his painting of Piccadilly Circus, which sold for £ 5.6 million in 2011.