Art of Football On Display

A selection of highlights from the National Football Museum’s surprising art collection have gone on display in Manchester for the first time.

Game Of The Year, Ithell Colquhoun, 1953
Game Of The Year, Ithell Colquhoun, 1953

Exhibited as part of the Heritage Lottery Fund Collecting Cultures project ‘The Art Of Football’, this small selection of highlights from the museum’s collection features a range of art that takes football as its inspiration.

A number of artworks displayed are from 1953; the same year L.S. Lowry’s iconic Going To The Match won the inaugural Football And Fine Arts competition arranged by The FA and the newly-formed Arts Council.

Displayed in Manchester for the first time, influential British surrealist Ithell Colquhoun’s The Game Of The Year was created in 1953. The title is thought to refer to the Blackpool vs Bolton Wanderers FA Cup Final of the same year, but there is no record of the painting being entered into the FA art competition.

Gerald A. Cains’ Saturday Taxpayers was entered into the 1953 competition. The oil on canvas painting of crowds filling a corner of a stand was entered by Cains at the last minute, after the picture apparently came to the artist in a dream. Aged just 22 at the time, he was the youngest artist to enter.

Study of Textures, V. Coverly Price, 1960
Study of Textures, V. Coverly Price, 1960

Changing Room by illustrator and printmaker Robert Tavener was one of five winners in the competition’s Engravings and Lithographs category. Also on display in Manchester for the first time is Study of Textures by V. Coverly Price (1960), in which the artist has chosen a great variety of ball games, rather than the traditional fruit bowl, for this carefully observed still life painting.

The other artworks on display in the museum’s ‘First XI’ gallery are:

Still Unbeaten (1892), a poster from Middlesborough during the 1892 General Election, with local indpendent Labour candidate Joseph Havelock Wilson portrayed as a goalkeeper.

Ball Game, Sean Adamson, 1961
Ball Game, Sean Adamson, 1961

The Shell Advertising Poster by Paul Nash (1935) is one of several artworks by top artists commissioned by the oil company for their early advertising campaigns. The British surrealist is best know for his startling war images, but this uses geometric shapes taken from the football field and a ball, alongside a very simple message; “Footballers prefer Shell”.

Irish artist Sean Adamson’s Ball Game (1961) is an abstract look at a game taking place in front of a row of terrace houses.

You can discover more of the museum’s collection of paintings at the Art UK website.

If you want to explore the full range of art in our collection, check out our Collections page.

Still UnbeatenShell Advertising Poster and Study of Textures are exhibited courtesy of The Priory Collection.


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Our shop has a great selection of football-inspired prints both from our collection, and by outstanding new artists, with a unique take on the beautiful game. Browse our online shop for a selection, or call in to the museum.