A seldom seen oil painting of the Waterloo Docks, Liverpool, by matchstick people artist LS Lowry is on display at the citys Walker Art Gallery
The celebrated artist created the work on a visit to the city in 1962 and left a mystery. It is unclear what part of the docks, opened in 1834, is depicted.
Laurence Stephen Lowry (1887 1976), of Salford, Manchester, travelled around Britain drawing and painting docks in Liverpool, South Shields and Glasgow in his unique style.
Ann Bukantas, the gallerys head of fine art, says: We are delighted to be able to show Waterloo Docks. It is a fine example of Lowrys later work, giving an insight into his choice of subjects. He liked the combination of industrial activity and seascape offered by such scenes.
"Waterloo Docks" may show part of the west dockside with the River Mersey on the left. Lowry probably used artistic licence, fusing together various elements to come up with his own version of the scene. The painting is on a long loan to the Walker.
Lowry painted a small number of Liverpool scenes including views of the River Mersey and Liver Building. His works often include crowds of scurrying, stick-like figures in northern industrial townscapes.
Lowry worked as a clerk and later a rent collector but painted in his spare time. For 20 years he attended art classes after work. His works feature simple shapes, primary colours and a white background.
"Waterloo Docks" is displayed with two biro studies for the painting. These sketchy drawings focus on the bold lines of the dock structure, giving only a faint suggestion of people and boats.
Lowry visited and admired the Walker Art Gallery, mentioning it in his letters.
The gallery bought his painting "The Fever Van" in 1943 which is displayed among the permanent collections.
One of the Walker paintings Lowry liked was "Dantes Dream" by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Lowry collected Rossettis work and displayed it at his last home in Mottram, Cheshire.
Ben Whittaker, Merseyside Maritime Museums curator of port history, says: We believe the painting either shows the outer wharf of the west dock or the dockside that separates the west and east docks.
On balance we think it probably shows part of the west dockside with the Mersey on the left but we cant be 100 per cent certain. The building could be a dockmasters building.
The painting has caused some head scratching perhaps our visitors who know the dock could offer suggestions. Its certainly a talking point.
We wonder how much artistic licence Lowry has used in "Waterloo Docks". He may have fused together various elements and removed others.