Ultimate honour for the humble man? Salford support bid to get Lowry on £20 note

Immortalising Salford’s most prolific artist on the one thing all of us use daily is the greatest honour to a man who refused to be recognised by awards.

This month, Salford is being urged to vote again – but this time to get Lowry the achievement he has always deserved: to be the next face gracing our £20 notes.

The Bank of England is seeking nominations from the public for a visual artist to become the next face of the country’s second highest-value note, of which there are around two billion in circulation.

Covering all creative disciplines from photography to printmaking, the only requirement is that the nominated artists are not fictional or living, and that they have had an impact on the daily lives of the British public.

And now Salford organisations are backing the call for Lowry to inject some Northern pride into the British banking system, with representatives from across the city adding their two cents into the debate.

INJECT SOME NORTHERN PRIDE: Salford organisations are calling for Lowry to get the recognition he deserves 
(© Crispin Eurich, via Smabs Sputzer, with thanks)

MM spoke to Michael Simpson, Director of Visual Arts and Engagement at The Lowry about whether he thought his organisation’s namesake would be a good candidate for currency.

“I think he’d be a great figurehead,” said Michael.

“The thing about Lowry – and it’s a bit of a cliché but absolutely true – he’s the people’s artist. He seems to connect with ordinary people in so many different ways.

“Our displays here see 100,000 visitors a year. His work connects with school children, right up to more senior visitors who can remember some of the scenes – and naturally all the people in between.

“He communicates to ordinary people no matter how interested in art they are and the notion of his face going on currency is an excellent idea.”

Admitting that the competition will include ‘loads of terrific artists from the last three centuries’, Michael said: “We don’t handle as many £20 notes as perhaps we’d like to, but I think if Lowry goes on it would be absolutely appropriate.”

BLEAK REALITY: Lowry is well known for his depictions of Pendlebury and Salford and his iconic ‘matchstick men’ 
(© ARTouch, via YouTube, with thanks)

Lowry, who was born in Stretford in 1887, was famous for his depictions of Pendlebury and Salford, where he lived and worked for over four decades.

His paintings show the bleak reality of 20th century life in the industrial North West England, and is often recognised for his urban landscapes peppered with his distinctive ‘matchstick men’.

Talking about the Olympic opening ceremony’s celebration of the country’s industrial heritage, Michael said that Lowry quickly recognised that ‘industry in the North was pivotal to the success of the nation’.

“He was painting the industrial landscape at a time when very few other artists were,” said Michael.

“For Lowry it wasn’t a five or ten year period of his life; he was painting in early 1900 and still painting when he died.

“He understood that the industrial revolution and industrialisation in the North of England was so significant to the economic fortunes of this country.”

GET BEHIND HIM: Salfordians are encouraged to cast their vote for Lowry before the deadline of July 19 (© Images Money, with thanks)

Lowry is said to be the front-runner in the competition and now his ‘home’ city is being urged to get behind him to secure his place on the note.

Keen to highlight that the ‘winner’ won’t be chosen by the number of votes received, the Bank of England said it will be the reasons given that decide the outcome, with the organisation’s Governor, Mark Carney, to announce the new face of the note.

City Mayor Ian Stewart said: “Lowry pioneered a new and unique style, capturing the essence of an industrial world which was disappearing even as he painted it.

“Few working class artists have ever achieved the recognition he did and while Lowry never sought fame in his lifetime he wanted his art, his city and his people to be seen and appreciated.

“He was a very humble man who turned down many honours, including a knighthood, but this would be our way of recognising his genius and saying thank you to him.

“I’d urge everyone in Salford to nominate Lowry to demonstrate the significance of his work. I think putting him on the £20 note would honour his life’s work and his talent and bring awareness to a whole new audience.”

‘HONOUR HIS LIFE’S WORK’: Alongside the campaign to recognise him in money is The Lowry’s relaunched exhibition of his work 
(© Neil Howard, with thanks)

Alongside the news of the artist’s consideration for the bank note honour is the relaunch of The Lowry’s permanent exhibition of his work two weeks tomorrow.

Featuring new works including a rare painting of Liverpool’s Liver Buildings (1959), Sea Trials at South Shields (1963), and Newspaper Seller (1942), the gallery currently holds the world’s largest public collection of Lowry’s paintings and drawings.

Nominations for the new face of the £20 note close on July 19 and can be made through the Bank of England website here.

Top image courtesy of ARTouch, via YouTube, with thanks

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