Fever Van

L.S. Lowry

phone 01 623 799 309
lowry fever van signed print
"The Fever Van."
Signed, Limited edition print of 700
Image size 21.5"x 16.5"
Courtesy of The Walker Art Gallery , Liverpool
Published by Mainstone print in 1972
Stamped by the fine art trade guild
Copyright in all countries inc. USA
Printed in India by Botton fine arts

"Accidents interest me, I have a very queer mind you know.
What fascinates me is the people they attract. The patterns those people form, an atmosphere of tension when something's happened....
Where there's a quarrel there's always a crowd.... It's a great draw. A quarrel or a body." L S Lowry

Laurence Stephen Lowry (1887-1976) used to say that he simply painted what he saw, common everyday scenes, often of incidents that caught his attention.
His work as a rent collector with the Pall Mall Property Company in Brown Street, Manchester (a job which he kept for 42 years until his retirement in 1952),
provided him with a unique opportunity to wander through the streets and enter the homes of 'his people'. Here he talked to and grew to understand and appreciate them.
Many of his tenants, their homes and incidents in their lives ended up in his paintings, the images he witnessed as part of his daily routine being stored in his memory
and reproduced in his art. 'When he saw a sight that attracted him he would stop in his tracks and... sketch on any piece of paper that came to hand'.

Lowry lived and worked all his life in Manchester and neighbouring Salford, one of the largest industrial communities in the north of England.
The industrial revolution in the 19th century brought about a huge population exodus from the countryside into the cities by people seeking work.
The massive influx of people forced the labouring classes to live in slums; only the middle class could afford to live out of the city centre and commute.
Overcrowding was a key factor in the spread of diseases such as diphtheria and scarlet fever. The small houses could contain up to ten people, living in unventilated rooms.
Between the rows of terraced housing there were open drains and rubbish where children played, and water came from wells that were often polluted.
The poor living conditions, long working hours in the mills and low pay all contributed to the general ill-health of the population and the frequent spread of disease.
Lowry met such sights every day and they were reflected in his paintings.

The fever van was the colloquial term in the north of England for the ambulance that transported patients with infectious diseases, usually scarlet fever or diphtheria,
to the local isolation or infectious diseases hospital. These vehicles were in existence throughout the country from around 1910 to the 1950s and had various nicknames.
Helena M Thomas from Rainham in Kent remembers a trip in one in 1918:
"The Fever Cart was a frequent visitor to Rainham in the early part of the century and although we children held our noses as it went by; many of us became passengers in our turn....
I remember being bundled up in a red blanket and lain head to the front in the little cab. I was probably too ill to notice much of the journey... but I do remember the bumps of what I thought was the horse kicking the cab by my head".

Scarlet fever and diphtheria, now almost eradicated in the UK, were common in the 1930s. Scarlet fever occurred mainly in children between the ages of 2 and 8,
spread by droplets from carriers and affected individuals. Despite sore throat, headache, and fever, with red spots in the mouth and on the body, children would
often continue to play with friends in the street and to mix with neighbours, allowing the disease to spread.
Diphtheria was likewise highly contagious, generally affecting the throat but occasionally other mucous membranes and the skin.
The disease is spread by close contact with a carrier or by contaminated milk. It was very tempting for certain families to conceal a case since, for example,
an outbreak on a farm could lead to a ban on the sale of dairy products and hence loss of income.

The principal treatment was isolation. Patients were taken from their homes and isolated in special fever hospitals for up to six weeks.
This allowed time for their own immune system to fight off the infection and limited the risk of contamination between patients and family.
Helena Thomas remembers the consequences of having scarlet fever/diphtheria at the time:

"The health inspector arrived at the house to fumigate the bed and the room I had occupied. I spent a month in North Ward (of Keycol Hill Isolation Hospital)
and my mother was allowed to stand on a chair outside the window and see me in bed on Sunday and Wednesday afternoons".
The fever van symbolized the power of the medical officer of health, and was disliked and feared.
The presence of a fever van in the street meant that a child would be forcibly taken from the family, with a strong likelihood of never returning,
such was the high mortality of scarlet fever and diphtheria. Moreover, there were more materialistic concerns.
The disinfection procedure that followed the removal of the child was likely to have a very destructive effect: "The child's books and toys were to be destroyed,
its bedroom disinfected by the application of concentrated solutions of powerful germicides to the floor, bed, walls and furniture.
Wallpaper must also be stripped and burned". These procedures caused much disruption and discomfort for the household.

We hope that you will browse and enjoy Paintings and signed prints by wildlife artist David Shepherd,here
Also the work of William Russell Flint whose paintings and signed prints are regsarded as some of the finest watercolours in the world. Click here
Famous for his portraits of Cecilia, Flint's greastest works illustrate the architecture and landscape throughout rural France
The work of Mr L.S. Lowry has become of great artistic and financial importance of recent years. A selection of his prints and paintings can be viewed here
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