James Lawrence Isherwood was born and lived in Wigan where he devoted his life to painting.
During his life, Isherwood’s paintings were dismissed as worthless and the artist died in poverty at his home in Wigan. With a recent record auction price of £8,200 for one of his paintings, the artist dimissed as a “laughing stock” is finally gaining the critical acclaim that he deserved.
Isherwood was an eccentric, controversial character who travelled extensively and had over 200 shows. He once set up shop under Boadicea’s statue on Westminster Bridge in London and in a lay-by on the East Lancs road.
Isherwood was rumoured to have LS Lowry as a fan who apparently had an Isherwood hung in his home until the day he died. There are many similarities between Isherwood and Lowry, except unlike Lowry, Isherwood devoted his whole life to painting, whereas Lowry had a full time job until he retired in 1952.
Isherwood went through bad times, some of his own making, but he did have a great regard for his paintings. He gave them away – sometimes – or would sell them for next to nothing. He wanted people to love his works.
He sported a cape, goatee beard and long hair, and he painted hundreds of canvasses in an eccentric artistic life dominated by twin passions: alcohol and his mother. Many of his works depict local mills, streets and canals; others show scenes from Spain, Malta, London; rows of bottles (empty); racehorses; clowns; nudes; and of course his mother.
Although Isherwood’s popularity has grown greatly in recent years the Daily Herald found him “compassionate, gifted and dedicated” in 1962 and the Guardian called him “a great and uncompromising artist” in 1975.
Despite the fact that Isherwood was so prolific and produced thousands of works, his paintings are becoming increasingly sought after, a fact which is reflected in recent sale prices.