The small fishing town of Wick at the northern end of Scotland in Caithness has been captured by L.S. Lowry in this large work which is estimated to sell for £500,000 to £800,000 at Bonhams
next sale of Modern British and Irish art on 20 November in Londons New Bond Street.
The image and occasion of this painting is commemorated with an engraved plaque of the painting at the site of the steps in Wick. It bears the legend: This is the original site where L.S. Lowry painted Black Steps, Wick in 1936. Lowry used to holiday in Scotland during the 1930s.
This oil on canvas by Laurence Stephen Lowry R.A. (British, 1887-1976), titled Steps at Wick is signed and dated 'L.S. LOWRY. 1937' and measures 43.2 x 53.3 cm. (17 x 21 in.). Famous for his matchstick figures Bonhams believe this picture could strike a light with many of Lowrys massive following.
The steps pictured in Lowrys image were part of Thomas Telford's 1809 scheme for the new town plan of Pulteneytown for the British Fisheries Society. The Black Stairs were part of Telford's original plan for Pulteneytown linking the residential area above the bank, via Lower Dunbar Street, to the harbour below. The steps were, however, not begun until the 1820s. Their name The Black Stairs appears to be a local, popular one as it does not feature in Telford's plan. The town of Wick straddles the river Wick and extends along both sides of Wick Bay.
An anti-establishment figure, Lowry holds the record for rejecting the most state honours, including a knighthood.
Lowry had an isolated upbringing in northern England. He spent many solitary early years in the leafy Manchester suburb of Victoria Park, Rusholm, later moving to the town of Pendlebury which was the inspiration for his industrial scenes. He is particularly recognised for his trademark matchstick men represented in desolate industrial and urban landscapes.
The picture was exhibited in Edinburgh by Aitken Dott & Son and also in The Scottish Arts Council, Modern Art from Scottish Houses; Inaugural Exhibition of the Scottish Arts Council's New Gallery, 13 July-9 August 1969. In London by the Crane Kalman Gallery, L.S. Lowry, A Selection of 36 Paintings, 4 November-6 December 1975 and in the London, Royal Academy of Arts, L.S. Lowry, R.A., 1887-1976, 4 September-14 November 1976.
Penny Day, of the Modern British and Irish Art Department at Bonhams, comments: We are privileged and delighted to be offering such an important, striking Lowry which has not been available for over 20 years. With the market for the artist stronger than ever and alongside the interest in the current Tate exhibition, we expect collectors will seize the opportunity to acquire this early tour de force.