If I ask you, where’s Waldo, does your mind automatically picture one of those books with an over-saturated scene with lots of colors and people?
That’s exactly what comes to my mind. I used to spend hours with these books.
I didn’t just find Waldo, but I searched for, and found, every item given for each scene.
But, did you know that an artist did something similar long before any of us ever heard of Waldo?
A mid-20th-century painter, L.S. Lowry created paintings depicting vast urban scenes of matchstick men.
Now, before you look up Lowry and his art, I should warn you. His “Where’s Waldo” paintings were not the happy, fun-loving scenes you’re thinking of.
They are more sadistic scenes filled with flashes of human suffering.
In one painting titled “An Accident”, Lowry captured a scene showing people gathered around a lake looking at something in the midst.
Look at the painting created in 1926, you can see what I’m referring to.
If you didn’t know the story behind this painting, you would probably not think anything of it.
But the truth behind it changes everything.
This painting was inspired by a local suicide and the group of people are thought to be looking at a waterlogged corpse. Morbid, right?
Lowry didn’t just paint one sadistic painting. In 1935 he created another called “The Fever Van”.
In that painting, Lowry depicts a group of people watching a van drive away with a patient.
It is believed that in that painting, Lowry is showing the “certain death” caused by diphtheria and scarlet fever, that plagued Manchester at that time.
Lowry isn’t ‘type-cast’, if that’s what you’re thinking.
He also has paintings showing fistfights, people being evicted, or others staring from their windows in overwhelming isolation.
In each, the tragedies are hidden, much like the modern day Waldo. Let me put Lowry and his art into perspective.
These scenes might not seem that terrible to you. But if he were painting today, I imagine he would be depicting the fact the people are arguing whether critical race theory exists or the death of Ahmaud Arbery.
Does that change your viewpoint on this art?
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So, let me ask you this.
At what point does depicting scenes like this cross a line?
Is it okay for someone to make money off of instances where people are losing their lives?
Would you hang art with this backstory in your home?
How would you feel if Lowry, or another artist, painted a city scene showing large crowds of people but upon closer examination, you see Kyle Rittenhouse holding an assault rifle?
Does that change how you feel about the painting or the subject matter?
One thing we know for certain is that art is subjective. There will always be pieces and artists who push the limits.
There will always be another controversial artist for us to talk about.
Do you have other “unknown” stories about famous art? Or maybe you have a question you’ve always pondered and can’t answer?
Head over to Her Blaze and share with us the questions you have. Maybe other art fans can help clarify things for all of us!