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28 October 2014

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LS Lowry with his painting, Portrait of Ann
Lowry with his painting, Portrait of Ann

Finding Ann

Throughout his career, LS Lowry continually painted a stylised young girl called Ann. Her apparent anonymity fascinated artist Charlotte Hollingworth so much, she set out to discover who the girl was and what she meant to the iconic painter.

Looking For Ann

  • Charlotte Hollingworth's Looking For Ann is on show at Salford University's Chapman Gallery until Fri 24 Feb

The resulting project saw Charlotte search the North West for the Ann-type figure, photographing girls who could be Lowry's 'Ann' and looking beyond the image to explore the motivation of Lowry and attempt to reinterpret who Ann really was.

We chatted to her to find out more about her search for the mysterious girl and what she reveals about the mind and motivations of Salford's most famous painter.

What made you start your search for Lowry’s Ann?

Charlotte Hollingworth
Charlotte Hollingworth

"I saw a girl across the canteen at work who was very visually interesting and I thought I’d be interested to do some kind of work with her. This coincided with a trip to a Lowry exhibition where I saw the painting, ‘6 Characters In Search Of An Author’; one of the figures in this painting was of a girl who inspired the painting, ‘Portrait of Ann’.

"I made this link and then I heard the story about Ann, so in a sense the girl across the canteen became the first ‘Ann’ that I found and the first one that I photographed."

What is so interesting about Ann?

Charlotte Hollingworth's Ann
One of Charlotte's Ann

"Initially I found the story of Ann interesting, rather than the image; that of Lowry portrayed as an old man having ‘platonic’ relationships with a series of very young girls, who all looked the same and seemed to be constantly replaced by younger versions.

"I also liked the idea of looking for a girl in the painting as an idea it’s impossible to find, a fictional image, and that kind of echoed the myth as to whether she existed or not.

"After I’d done further research and seen some images supposedly of Ann, found hidden at the back of his drawer after his death, I began to try and find out what Ann was to him."

What was your aim with Looking For Ann?

"My aim changed as the project moved on. Initially, it was simply to find the girl in the painting, simply a way to play with boundaries between fact and fiction. I then became more interested in exploring and visually representing who Ann was to Lowry."

How did you use your own art to search for Ann?

"She is a composite of his idealised woman, who is eternally young, innocent and unsullied by life. She is his escape from his bleak view of the world."
Charlotte Hollingworth on what 'Ann' was to LS Lowry

"When I found an ‘Ann’, I would arrange to meet her and she would be transformed into Ann by wearing the characteristic red jumper that Lowry’s Ann is wearing in the painting. I photographed 31 of these girls dressed like this, with their hair in a single plait.

"However, after more in-depth research, I began to create more developed photographic images, which were different from finding and documenting girls.

These images explore who Ann really was by looking more closely at Lowry; for example his obsessive collection of Rossetti images, his relationship with his mother and the autobiographical nature of all of his paintings. My photographs hopefully visually reflect an aspect of Lowry that most people are unaware of."

What have you found?

LS Lowry's Portrait of Ann (1957)
LS Lowry's Portrait of Ann (1957)

"Three months into this voyeuristic search, I found a young girl called Hayley who was the nearest possible lookalike that a human could be to painting, in terms of symmetry and proportion of features.

"I also found that Lowry has been mythologized as almost a simple eccentric who painted nostalgic northern mill towns and I think this couldn’t been farther from the reality of who he was. I believe this to be a construction that he was complicit in."

What does Ann tell us about Lowry? 

Charlotte Hollingworth's Ann
Another of Charlotte's Anns

"For me Ann represents many things about this complex person. She is a composite of his idealised woman, who is eternally young, innocent and unsullied by life. She is his escape from his bleak view of the world and, in many ways, was probably painted as a sexual outlet.

"She tells us that he was much more than the asexual man who painted the mill towns. She shows us the lost opportunity that he had to have a close relationship with any woman other than his mother, whom he lived with and nursed until she died when Lowry was in his 50s.

"From a painting perspective, she was one of the only painting that he gave dignity to and alleviated above the state of automaton, so in that sense she reveals his lack of humility towards many of his subjects."

Do you think Ann was a real person? 

"I’m still not sure; for me, it’s not important whether she existed but more what she represents psychologically for Lowry."

last updated: 20/02/06
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