James Lawrence Isherwood was a cobblers son born in Wigan, Lancashire in 1917. He started painting at the tender age of nine yet in the early years it was simply a hobby as his early career included working in a local company’s accounts department and his own family shoe business. However, this didn’t have any impact on his burning ambition of becoming an artist. Though he took... formal education in art from Wigan Technical College of Art, it is very hard to characterise his style. His work is truly unique in every sense of the word.
Isherwood didn’t like stereotypes or wanted to be restricted by any rules. He had his own way of seeing things and putting them on canvas. With vibrant use of colors and strong brushwork, he is still considered one of the best expressionist painters the country has ever seen.
His paintings and the way he lived speak greatly of his appreciation of the world of sixty to seventy years before him, perhaps a character more befitting of the famous turn of the century School of Paris artists. Adorned in a long cape and sandals, his paintings were a true depiction of Wigan. Isherwood’s painting were simply an interpretation of the things he experienced in life.
The subjects in his paintings were often working class Northern people, with settings sometimes quite detailed in sometimes much simpler. He usually depicted the townscape as tough and dark, but there were always strokes of emotions and hope to give paintings a positive outlook.
Isherwood wanted to familiarise people with the true nature of art and the impact it can have on their lives. For this, he conducted hundreds of shows in almost every part of the country. He even exhibited at Cambridge and Oxford Universities, providing undergraduates the opportunity to own his paintings at discounted rates. One such new collector was HRH Prince Charles.
His mother was possibly the biggest influence on his work and life. She always encouraged him and wanted him to become one of the best in the business, often travelling with him and also the subject of many of his Mother Lily paintings.
After years of depression and mixed health from accelerated by bouts of alcoholism following his mother’s death and relationship break downs, Isherwood succumbed to cancer in 1989.
Since his death, Lawrence Isherwood’s paintings have continued to be widely collected amongst other well known Northern artists including LS Lowry, Helen Bradley and fellow Wigan artist Theodore Major. Isherwood paintings have been sold through leading art galleries and auction houses including Sothebys, with an auction record price achieved of £8000.