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Few artists have divided opinion as strongly as Laurence Stephen Lowry. He's loved by millions of the general public, but many among the art establishment have accused him of amateurism - a 'Sunday Painter', extremely limited in the scope of his artistic ambition.

In the past, Lowry fans have accused the Tate of failing to adequately represent him on their gallery walls because of a Metropolitan and anti-Northern bias.

Now though, The Tate is set to launch the biggest Lowry exhibition since his death in 1976. The curators argue that, for too long, the north/south argument and the endless debate over whether he was too sentimental has overshadowed a fuller appreciation of the L S Lowry's worth - which comes through recognition of his connections with other traditions, particularly those from France.

Michael Symmons Roberts grew up in Manchester with Lowry paintings on the wall and he sets out to explore whether it is possible to get a fresh perspective on this most troublesome figure, questioning whether northerners themselves have stood in the way of fuller recognition of Lowry's qualities through being too defensive, too chippy over his legacy. Along the way Michael meets people who knew the artist well, and who worked alongside him in documenting the north-west landscape.

He asks the current crop of metropolitan art critics how they feel about the Tate being taken over by the rent collector from the north, and also talks to the curators of the exhibition about their desire to get past the old arguments and concentrate on what they regard as the outstanding quality of the artwork itself.


Producer: Geoff Bird
A Sparklab production for BBC Radio 4.
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