Coming from the Mill (1930 - 1930) by LS LowryThe Lowry
L.S. Lowry's paintings became well-loved for capturing the complex bustle and toil of industrial North West England in the mid-twentieth century. Here, take an audio tour of what the artist called his "most characteristic mill scene". There's more than meets the eye...
The scene shows factory workers leaving at the end of a long day of exhausting work. We can almost hear the clock chiming the late hour. The clock face in the tower, though, is left blank. Though the scene is based on Lowry's native North West, it is an imagined one. This could be any factory at any time, a painting of universal experience.
The workers file out of the gate. There is a noise of bustle, and perhaps relief, as the day's work comes to an end. But the dark figures bow their heads, tired and stoic. There's little joy in the crowd.
From the claustrophobic working conditions of the mill, the figures stream into the open, bustling street. Listen: a horse and carriage trundles by. In 1930, when Lowry painted this scene, motor cars were being mass produced, but were expensive and not common in working areas.
A group of kids gather to kick a ball around a courtyard. Again, though they're playing, the figures seem oddly subdued. Times are tough in the industrial North, and even playing soccer is an act of strength during hardship.
The lights of the factory-owners' offices glow ominously and the towers loom imperiously, watching over the lives of the ordinary people from an almost godly height. Listen to the cold North English wind howling.
Down amongst the houses of the ordinary and the strong, these smaller chimneys are also smoking. A fire's on at home, and dinner is being prepared. There's the suggestion of domestic family comforts amidst the toil.