Carol Anne Lowry and the little girl

The Power of the Provenance… It Really Does Add a Lot of Value

by Laura Storey


Adam Partridge

The world of collectables is huge, there is always someone somewhere collecting something. The biggest problem a collector faces is authenticity, especially for the new collector – as long as something has a good value there will be somebody creating a fake to pass off as an original.

Auctioneers do have resources to authenticate items but sometimes the item is on the border with split opinion, this is where provenance is everything.

The most famous autographs, and probably the most faked autographs, are from The Beatles.

What is provenance? It is a means in which the buyer can believe, without doubt, that the item is what it is claimed to be. One area of collecting in which this is so important is autographs. Autograph collecting has always been around but became popular mainly from the early 20th century, especially with the popularity of the motion picture. The celebrity was somebody you could admire and to have the signature by the hand of your hero was a trophy you would cherish. Once, a person’s word was all you needed to believe that what you were buying was authentic, however, nowadays there is doubt, because people can easily access autograph examples which they could easily copy. The most famous autographs, and probably the most faked autographs, are from The Beatles. Their signatures used to be a standard £2,500 at auction for all four but with the lack of confidence in the market place, buyers are wary and the price at auction has dropped, unless there is good provenance. An example of this was lot 632 in our Liverpool April 2022 Rock and Pop auction which was a small autograph album with one page bearing the signatures of all four Beatles, these were brought in to the Catterall (Preston) valuation office and seen by our senior valuer Steven Parkinson. Steven says, “before I get excited, I scrutinise the provenance and back story, you have to remember I have to hear all types of stories, including people telling me their autographs were signed at a UK venue when it is documented that the Beatles were out of the country at this time.” However, this seller said that her grandfather Frederick John Phipps worked for The Queen’s Theatre, Blackpool as an usher/attendant. He took his granddaughter’s autograph book to be signed by the artists.

The Beatles’ autographs

The Beatles autographs were signed in July 1963. This all checked out and was published with the description and the autograph album went on to sell for £5,000 to a buyer on the internet. On a recent free home valuation in Knotts End, Poulton, Steven recalls that, at the end of the visit, the lady asked, “can I show you a painting?” She pulled out from her shopping bag a portrait of a young girl. She said, “this was me when I was six, do you know who the artist is?” Steven looked at the eyes, the contour of the jaw and also the use of the white. “I would say Lowry…” Steven joked. She said, “you are right in a way,” she then went on to say that the artist was Carol Ann Lowry who, at the age of 13, wrote to LS Lowry asking for advice on painting, to her surprise a month later he turned up at her parents’ home to give that advice and a friendship blossomed, with Lowry being a big influence in Carol’s painting. Carol and her mother Mattie used to stay at the guest house on The Esplanade, Knotts End in the 60s and became really good friends with the lady and her mother who was the guesthouse owner. The lady said, “when I was six, Carol asked if she could paint me and I said yes, I remember it very clearly, I was sat on a stool on the landing and Carol was painting me!”

LS Lowry would also frequently turn up at the guest house at the same time and on this occasion, she remembered him stood behind Carol giving tips and advice on the use of colour and techniques, this memory was also confirmed by the lady’s elder brother. Carol, even though of no relation, later became the heiress of LS Lowry with her inheriting his estate and all his paintings, many of which are in the Lowry exhibition in the Lowry Centre in Salford.

Carol Anne Lowry girl portrait

Even though Lowry did paint some of his famous Knott End ferry scenes following his visits and there is a sculpture tribute of Lowry’s stay in the town, we cannot prove that he painted any of the portrait, however we do know that, from the two witness accounts, he was there on the landing whilst some or all of the portrait was painted so we know that it has his influences. This will be offered in our 30th April Northern Art sale with a modest estimate of £1,000 – £1,500. If LS Lowry had painted this it could be worth £300k+.

NorthernLife May/June 2022