Friday 26 July 2019

LS Lowry’s painting ‘Going to Work,’ has spent much of its life in storage since its creation during the Second World War. Now it has been cleaned and restored to its former colours, this depiction of industrial working life is now on permanent display at IWM North.

Going to Work

Laurence Lowry's painting 'Going to Work.'
© IWM (Art.IWM ART LD 3074)

Going to Work

LS Lowry's iconic painting 'Going to Work,' was commissioned in 1943 at the height of the Second World War by the War Artists Advisory Committee (WAAC).

Heavy industry was playing a crucial role in the war effort and the WAAC wanted to reflect that in their art collection. 

'A huge part of the population was engaged in industry and the commissioning bodies were really keen to get artists to represent it, so that's why Lowry, in particular, was ideal,' says IWM curator, Claire Brenard. 


Filled with all the signature features that have made Lowry such a much-loved artist, 'Going to Work,' is set in front of the Mather & Platt engineering works in Manchester as the crowd of matchstick workers flow into the factory. The white sky and ground, originally thought to be snow, is in fact an evocation of industrial haze. 

At the time, Lowry was paid 25 guineas for the commission and finished 'Going to Work' in three months. Once complete, it went on display a number of times at home and abroad as the WAAC attempted to promote Britain's Second World War effort. 

"A huge part of the population was engaged in industry and the commissioning bodies were really keen to get artists to represent it, so that's why Lowry, in particular, was ideal " - IWM curator, Claire Brenard. 

After the war, IWM helped to relocate many of the 6,000 artworks the WAAC had collected at galleries and institutions around the world. In the process, IWM itself received around 3,000 works of art, including Lowry's 'Going to Work.'

For many years, 'Going to Work,' was stored at IWM London but is now on display for the first time alongside Flora Lion's Building Flying-Boats and Anna Airy's 'The 'L' Press. Forging the Jacket of an 18-inch Gun' will also go on display for the first time, too. 

Restoring 'Going to Work'

Restoring 'Going to Work'

Ahead of its display, the painting has undergone some conservation work. The process included the removal of varnish from the painting, which was added sometime after Lowry created the artwork as Lowry did not varnish his paintings. The varnish had affected the colour balancing of the artwork, adding a yellow hint to the painting. Removing the varnish has revealed the work that Lowry originally intended.

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