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The Royal Iris ferry was known as the ‘fish and chip’ boat as it had its own chip shop on board. It also had a stage and a dance floor and is well remembered from Liverpool’s Merseybeat era. Paul McCartney even name-checked the boat in his 2007 song, That Was Me. Bands including The Beatles and Gerry and the Pacemakers played on board.
The muted colours of the painting, which also shows a faint outline of the iconic Liverpool skyline, are distinctive of Lowry’s style.
Ann Bukantas, Head of Fine Art, said: “Lowry is probably best known for his scenes of working-class life in Salford but excitingly this painting represents a very different side of his work. Instead of an industrial landscape, it shows a very calm river Mersey, and rather than his well-known ‘matchstick men’, we see a small number of boats with the ferry at the centre. The ferry itself is full of character.
“The colours and flattened picture plane are, however, very recognisable as Lowry’s style and we know visitors will be fascinated to see it alongside three of his other works, two of which are also rare Liverpool scenes.”
The painting joins three other works by LS Lowry on display at the Walker Art Gallery: The Fever Van (1935), The Liver Buildings, Liverpool (1950) and The Waterloo Dock, Liverpool (1962). The Fever Van is part of the Walker’s collection, while the other two works – like The Royal Iris – are loaned by the Alderson Smith Family.
The Royal Iris was formerly owned by Liverpool-born Robert Sangster (1936-2004), the businessman and racehorse owner. His father Vernon Sangster, who died in 1986, was a collector of Lowry’s work.
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