I’m always interested in how artists of all kinds use their influences, about they evolve their own style from the sources of their inspiration. Back in August, I wrote here about the British painter L.S. Lowry, the man best known for his matchstick men figures and the urban landscapes of his native Manchester. He is generally considered a self-taught painter despite the many years he spent taking evening classes at the Manchester Municipal School of Art while he worked his days as a rent collector. It’s even more surprising that the critics still attach this self-taught tag to Lowry once you begin to look at the work of the primary influence on him, Adolphe Valette. In looking at Valette’s paintings, you can see how Valette’s style and eye had a tremendous influence on Lowry.
Valette was a Frenchman who arrived in England in 1904, carrying with him the influence of the Impressionist movement that was in full bloom in France at the time. He eventually ended up in the north of England, to Manchester, a city at the center of the British industrial revolution. It’s smoke-filled and foggy landscape provided the perfect inspiration for the hazy and evocative paintings of Valette and his student, Lowry. Valette taught for many years there until returning to France in 1928, where he died in 1942 at the age 0f 66.
I’m surprised that Valette didn’t gain more notoriety for his work , that his name and work wasn’t well known before Lowry’s popularity brought him to light. The images that I can find are beautiful and strong, rivaling much of the work of his better known Impressionist contemporaries. I suppose that painting and showing in Manchester in the early 1900’s didn’t provide much access to the salons and museums of the greater art world. At least Lowry’s recognition has pulled him into the present, giving his influential works greater influence and making them the subject of study.
As it should be.