Born in 1917 into a working class family in Wigan, James Lawrence Isherwood’s family were cobblers, and he worked in the shop until released by his father’s death in the 1950s. He once tried to pay a motoring fine with a painting, but Stockport magistrates refused to accept it - the Clerk of the Court paid the fine and kept the painting. The artist had limited commercial success during his lifetime, painting controversial, gimmicky paintings of celebrities which damaged his reputation as a serious artist. He was known locally as ‘the eccentric artist’, and many of his Impressionist-style works were painted under the influence of alcohol. L.S. Lowry once bought one of Isherwood’s portraits, paying £5 for the work entitled ‘Minnie Small with cat’. Isherwood died in 1989 from cancer, leaving behind him thousands of unsold paintings.
Although Isherwood’s work barely sold during his lifetime, his paintings of Wigan life as well as scenes of Scotland, Wales and Spain now sell very well at auction. He was so keen for people to like his work that he’d often let it go for whatever customers could afford to pay, and sometimes tried to trade it for oil paints or other materials. His work didn’t become commercially successful until after his death, when his sister-in-law and former agent organised exhibitions, but his paintings are now widely collected and very popular.
As with all artwork, the value of James Lawrence Isherwood’s work varies a little according to the provenance, media, size and subject matter. Sadly in recent years there has been a huge increase in fake works attributed to Isherwood. All the works sold at Peter Wilson Auctioneers have been confirmed as authentic by the estate of the artist and we pride ourselves on only selling authentic works by this artist. At Peter Wilson’s, our in-house expert Stephen Sparrow has years of experience in assessing and valuing Isherwood’s paintings, so do get in touch if you’d like to learn more about a piece you own, or discuss a potential sale or valuation.