A Closer Look: L.S. Lowry’s Coronation View

When L.S. Lowry was appointed an official artist at the Coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953, he could not imagine why he was appointed to capture such a grand occasion.

Apparently grumbling quite a bit before he left for London, L.S.Lowry arrived at Buckingham Palace a lot later than his designated time of arrival of six o’clock in the morning. He wore a raincoat all the day, anticipating the predictably changeable British weather. He drew nothing as he sat in the stands; he later confessed to his friend and fellow artist David Carr that he returned the next morning to do a few sketches, though he still had not idea what he would paint: ‘it will sort itself out’ he wrote. The Ministry of Works, it seems, gave little in terms of direction as to what he should produce.

Laurence Stephen Lowry, The Procession passing the Queen Victoria Memorial, Coronation

During the procession, Lowry found himself distracted, more by the crowd than by the grand spectacle in front of him. ‘Some excellent incidents took place round about which fascinated me but not, I should imagine, what the Ministry of Works want, I am sorry to say.’

The painting did eventually ‘sort itself out’. By August, two months after the Coronation, he had completed a picture of ‘a straightforward view from [his] seat at the top of the Mall’ and sent it to the Ministry of Works. Lowry was paid £100 for his work . The painting was part of ‘The Coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II: Paintings and Drawings’, an exhibition held in the New Government Offices, Whitehall Gardens, during November and December 1953. From there, it was sent to Moscow to hang in the British Embassy, and it will be spending the Jubilee year on display in the Consulate General in New York.

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