Alan Lowndes (1921-1979)

Tightrope Walker

Signed and dated 1961 lower left; inscribed and dated 'TIGHT-ROPE WALKER/Completed St Ives July 1961' verso

Oil on canvas

61 x 76 cm (24 x 30 in)

Provenance: Willis Hall. Anonymous sale, Christie's, London, 23 March 1995, lot 74.
Exhibited: Crane Kalman Gallery, London, Alan Lowndes Paintings 1948-1972 , September–October 1972, no. 48.
Literature: Exhibition catalogue, Alan Lowndes Paintings 1948-1972, Crane Kalman Gallery, London, 1972, pp. 19 and 37, no. 48, illustrated.

Alan Lowndes was born in Stockport, Lancashire, and worked as a decorator before taking evening art classes after the war at the local technical college. His first exhibition was in a local pub in 1951, and in 1952 he was spotted by the gallerist Andras Kalman, who showed his work at the Crane Gallery in Manchester. Both here and at the gallery he was soon to open in Knightsbridge, London, Kalman also exhibited the work of LS Lowry, and the two artists, though quite distinct, were often compared. A long list of arts and entertainment luminaries were then to acquire Lowndes’s work, including Charles Laughton, Richard Attenborough, Albert Finney, Michael Parkinson, and the script-writing duo –  famed for the stage version of Billy Liar – Keith Waterhouse, and Willis Hall who owned this picture. Lowndes' paintings are also in numerous museum collections in Britain from Plymouth to Glasgow, with several in the Arts Council England collection.

Like Lowry, Lowndes used the industrial townscape as his backdrop to observations of human life and behaviour, but he would also seek inspiration elsewhere. One of those places was the travelling Belle Vue Circus which Lowndes lived with during 1959. Throughout his career Lowndes would return to circus settings for his paintings. Sadly, a fire in his studio destroyed most of his early circus paintings, so this example, from 1961, is one of the earliest extant. Clearly, from the inscription, the painting was begun in Stockport but finished in St Ives where Lowndes had recently joined the thriving artistic community. The vibrant colours and sense of simple joy that permeates it makes it a classic of its kind.


Tightrope Walker by Alan Lowndes (framed). Kynance Fine Art collection, London.