Football paintings look match fit for sale

A magnificent 1926 panorama by the celebrated English painter, Charles Cundall R.A., R.W.S, R.P entitled A Cup Tie at Crystal Palace, Corinthians V Manchester City leads Bonhams online-only sale of football paintings, Football: The Beautiful Game Sale from December 4-13. The painting is offered with an estimate of £100,000-150,000.

The impressive single-owner collection was assembled by Chris Beetles of Chris Beetles Gallery on behalf of the Chairman for an FA Cup winning team. The collection, which celebrates the nation’s favourite sport, features more than 100 works and over 50 artists from the early 19th century to the present day, expressing visions of crowded cup-ties and floodlit evening games, to poignant portraits of single players, cartoon commentaries and figure studies of athletic duels. The works provide a unique insight into life in Britain as expressed through oil, watercolour and pen and ink.

Ruskin Spear R.A. (British, 1911-1990), The Big Match, oil on board.
Ruskin Spear R.A. (British, 1911-1990), ‘The Big Match’

Highlights in the sale include:

  • Michael Critchlow (British,1939-1953), Craven Cottage, oil on board. Estimate: £15,000-20,000
  • Harold Speed (British, 1872-1957), Portrait of John Ellison McCartney Holding a Football, dated 1911. Estimate: £15,000-20,000
  • Ruskin Spear R.A. (British, 1911-1990), The Big Match, oil on board. Estimate: £7,000-10,000
  • Stanley Roy Badmin, R.W.S (British, 1906-1989), Here they Come! The Valley, pen, ink, and watercolour. Estimate: £7,000-10,000
  • Carel Weight R.A. (British, 1908-1997), Cup Tie, oil on board. Estimate: £7,000-10,000.
Carel Weight R.A (British, 1908-1997) 'Cup Tie'
Carel Weight R.A (British, 1908-1997) ‘Cup Tie’

Christopher Dawson, Bonhams Head of Department for Modern British and Irish Art commented: “This sale represents one of the most significant and important collections of original works on football. Assembled over a period of 25 years, this rich and diverse collection features many notable artists from Charles Cundall, best known for his large panoramic canvases, to cartoonists and draughtsmen, such as Edward Ardizzone, Fougasse, Ronald Searle, Larry and Louis Wain.”

Writing in the Winter Issue of Bonhams Magazine, Matthew Sturgis observed: “The majority of the pictures date from the middle years of the 20th century – from the 1920s through to the 1980s. It is an age before the Premier League arrived (est.1992), with its razzmatazz, its new stadia, its TV-dominated schedules, and its sense that ‘Football’ might not be a game at all, but a ‘product’. The pictures here conjure up a lost world of standing-terraces, of Saturday afternoon kick-offs, of flat-capped goal-keepers, of unchecked shoulder-charges, of ‘heavy’ pitches and heavier balls. There is a cumulative sense from these pictures, of football as an essentially working-class sport, woven into the physical and social fabric of the national life.”

Michael Critchlow (British,1939-1953), Craven Cottage
Michael Critchlow (British,1939-1953), Craven Cottage

The sale also includes Louis Wain’s footballing cats, Jacksons’ Always Score with an estimate of £6,000-8,000 and Ronald Searle’s pen and ink depiction of the reluctant Molesworth with the ball at his feet, Molesworth Back in the Jug Agane, offered with an estimate of £3,000-4,000. The oblique tension of the game is expressed in Football – The Penalty by George Bissill, estimate: £2,000-3,000 while the dynamic action is skilfully expressed in The Tackle by William E. Narraway, also with an estimate of £2,000-3,000.

Harold Speed (British,1872-1957) Portrait of John Ellison McCartney Holding a Football
Harold Speed (British,1872-1957) ‘Portrait of John Ellison McCartney Holding a Football’

Works from this collection have been shown in prestigious exhibitions and institutions including Football and the Fine Arts organised by the Football Association in 1953 and The Arts Council of Great Britain. The works have also been published in numerous books, magazines, and newspapers.