LS Lowry painting with figures ‘social distancing’ features in online exhibition

A painting by LS Lowry that appears to be suitable for socially distant times has been included in a new online art exhibition.

Painted in 1937, An Old Street is part of the art exhibition that has begun its virtual run at St. Andrews Museum in Fife.

While the artist is known for his industrial landscapes and scenes overflowing with matchstick figures, the people in the painting keep their distance from one another.

It was originally part of the collection of Kirkcaldy linen maker JW Blyth, the maternal grandfather of journalist and broadcaster Michael Portillo.

The painting once belonged to Michael Portillo's grandfather (Ian West / PA)The painting once belonged to Michael Portillo’s grandfather (Ian West / PA)

Exhibition curator Lesley Lettice said, “Lowry’s industrial landscapes are often filled with people who are in close contact with one another – be it at sporting events, queuing for chip shops, or heading home after a hard day’s work.

“On an old street, on the other hand, there are only eleven people who, apart from the fact that two parents look with their children, don’t like to get too close.

“It all seems very timely.”

Most of the Blyth collection was purchased by the Kirkcaldy City Council in 1963.

An old street is now part of the OnFife (Fife Cultural Trust) managed collection and one of only seven works by Lowry that are in the public collections of Scotland.

The painting by LS Lowry seems to be suitable for socially distant times (Angus Blackburn / PA)The painting by LS Lowry seems to be suitable for socially distant times (Angus Blackburn / PA)

Mr Portillo said art was his grandfather’s “passion” and remembered visiting his Fife home which was full of “heavy gilded frames”.

The former MP said: “As a child, I was terrified of passing under them on my way to bed in case someone should fall and crush me.

“He’s collected hundreds of paintings, many more than could fit in Wilby House.”

Other works on display at the art exhibition include paintings by noted 20th century artist Sir William MacTaggart, craft painter John Duncan, and paintings of local scenes such as Kilconquhar Loch, Crail Harbor and Isle of Mai.

Those who sign up to view the artworks are asked to create stories and verses that are inspired by the paintings.

Further details on the exhibition can be found at

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