The painting was last seen on public view in an exhibition in 1967, the year after it was painted, and has since been in private hands.
The North Sea, painted in 1966, is one of the finest examples of his rare large-scale seascapes. After the death of his mother in 1939 and he was free to choose his own holiday destinations, Lowry frequently stayed for long periods of time at the Seaburn Hotel in Sunderland, to which he became deeply attached and where the staff took great care of him. He always stayed in the same room, which looked straight out at the empty expanse of the North Sea, the water and sky melding at the horizon.
The painting encapsulates Lowry’s extraordinary skill in manipulating his distinctive five-colour palette to create a painting that at first glance appears monochrome, but on closer inspection demonstrates a deft use of colour. While predominantly using his beloved flake white, Lowry has modulated it with ivory black and hints of yellow ochre, Prussian blue, and vermillion. Lowry worked up his paintings over many months, gradually adding layer upon layer to create a texture and tone of great complexity and depth that draws the viewer in.
Lowry was fascinated by the sea. At once both beautiful and dangerously powerful, it was a constant source of inspiration to the solitary artist and he painted it throughout his life; however, the majority of his seascapes depict the North West coast, the resorts of Lytham and Rhyl where he had spent many a holiday with his somewhat overbearing mother. In these he painted seafronts bustling with holiday makers and boats scudding across sunlit seas. However, from the early 1940s he began to paint pure seascapes, with nothing but sea and sky. These rare, seemingly simple yet highly sophisticated works are far removed from the bustling industrial streets scenes for which he is better known.
It is often suggested that his seascapes should be purely see as images of loneliness, however, these works are as enigmatic and multifaceted as the artist himself. Whatever his intentions, Lowry created a remarkable work of art that captures the mysterious allure of the sea.
Two pencil sketches by Lowry from the same collection will also be offered in the sale, A Pond, with an estimate of £15,000-25,000; and Man Taken Ill, which has an estimate of £12,000-18,000.
The three works are being sold from the estate of a Lady in the North West. Born in Lancaster, she had a special affinity with the sea sparked by childhood holidays to St Bees on the Cumbrian coast. After studying to become a classical pianist in Perugia and Paris, she returned to the North West to marry, and together with her husband set up a successful business. She would meet Lowry in Morecambe, and later recounted his delight in the simple pleasures of eating ice cream and his visible enjoyment of the seaside, and the pair bonded over their shared love of the sea.