James Lawrence Isherwood was a cobblers son born in Wigan, Lancashire in 1917. He started his formal education in art at the local College of Art. He is perhaps best remembered for his ‘Wigan Style’ and paintings of the local people.
Isherwood was a friend of the artist L. S. Lowry, who purchased his Woman with Black Cat and displayed it at his home. Lowry paid £5 for the picture from Isherwood’s Av Guard exhibition in Manchester.
Other known collectors include Prince Charles, who bought one of Isherwood’s seascapes from a sale held at Cambridge University. The former Director General of the BBC Hugh Greene commissioned a portrait of Mary Whitehouse, his vociferous critic, from Isherwood; the artist depicted her with five breasts. Isherwood gave the painting a punning title – “Sanctity” – and Hugh Greene allegedly hung it in his office so that he could throw things at it.
Always short of money, Isherwood traveled the country in his old estate car, usually accompanied by his mother Lily. He liked to pitch up at art colleges and give impromptu tutorials, and usually paid for his hotel room with a painting. He also offered magistrates a painting in lieu of a fine when prosecuted for driving with no tax or insurance.
A BBC documentary, ‘I am Isherwood’ was made in 1974 about the artist and his work.
Lawrence Isherwood died on 9 June 1989.