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Monday, 9 January 2012

Exhibitions - Adolphe Valette - The Lowry

Star rating - 8/10

It’s great to find someone who really appreciates and embraces the beauty of Manchester through its famous climate, rather than just moaning about its rain. And the pioneering impressionist artist Adolphe Valette, whose exhibition is still on until the end of the month at The Lowry, is one such person.

Valette is famous for being a teacher and friend of L.S. Lowry himself, at the Manchester Municipal School of Art in All Saints, now part of the Manchester Metropolitan University, and for his beautiful paintings of Manchester itself which celebrate its mist and fog like nothing else quite does. He came to Manchester from France in 1904, and stayed on for another twenty four years, becoming a favourite teacher at the school. There are lots of lovely nude drawings from his life classes there, probably just ordinary folk from the local area who needed a bit of extra money.

In this exhibition there is the clear sense of Valette as someone who really appreciated ordinary people, both family, friends, and strangers alike, and celebrated them through his art. There are lovely portraits of his wife, mother and sister. His first house in Plymouth Grove, in the well to do neighbourhood of Victoria Park, is captured in all its leafy affluence. His paintings of the city are celebrations of its status and industry – in the River Irwell, the Ship Canal, and the traffic along Oxford Road.

To prepare for this exhibition, The Lowry made a public appeal for some of his lost works, and managed to track down some of them which were previously thought lost. Some of his work as a graphic designer is displayed, as well as rural portraits of working people and places from his time back home in the fields of France, where he returned due to ill health and the death of his mother.

It’s great to really get a sense of a person through their work, and these pictures are really beautiful, as I imagine was the soul of the man himself. Valette was not from Manchester, but obviously really loved this city, and through his work and close relationship with Lowry, helped to bring its greatness and beautifully inclement weather to the attention of a much wider public.

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