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Rare Lowry painting of cricket match to appear at auction this summer
L.S. Lowry, A Cricket Match, 1938, oil on board, 45.5 x 61cm (est. £800,000 – 1,200,000). Courtesy Sotheby's.

LONDON.- One of Britain’s best-loved artists, L.S. Lowry turned his paintbrush to cricket on no more than a handful of occasions. When it last appeared on the market – in its auction debut – at Sotheby’s in June 1996, it set the then world record for a work by the artist at £282,000. It will now be offered as a highlight of Sotheby’s Modern & Post-War British Art Evening Sale on 18 June, with an estimate of £800,000 – 1,200,000.

The painting will first be unveiled at The Lowry in Salford – not far from the Old Trafford Cricket Ground. The special five-day view at The Lowry precedes a glorious summer of cricket with the much-anticipated ICC Cricket World Cup, with major venues across England and Wales, including Old Trafford, set to host fixtures. A Cricket Match will then return to London for the pre-sale exhibition in New Bond Street from 14 – 17 June.

Lowry’s interest in sporting occasions was always about the spectacle and the crowds that even informal matches drew. Cricket, as much as football, was at the heart of Lancashire life in the 1930s and so it is surprising that the subject only makes a few appearances in Lowry’s oeuvre. Indeed, Lowry painted a formal cricket match just once. Here, the landscape could not be further removed from that of the hallowed turf at Old Trafford. Instead, the match plays out on an uneven waste ground, framed by a large dilapidated tenement building with broken and boarded up windows. Painted in an almost ghostly pale pink, the structure has an exquisitely haunting presence – a ghostly counterpoint to the grand Victorian pavilion at Old Trafford.

At first glance, A Cricket Match appears to be a simple moment in daily life, yet Lowry has constructed it very carefully to ensure that the narrative unfolds slowly, enveloping the viewer in its poignancy.

Children playing games are an essential narrative element in Lowry’s work, providing an emotional counter-point to the burdensome life of work. They act as a reminder of the joy that for the adults had now become elusive or fleeting. In this painting, Lowry gives the children the centre stage, dotted around the composition, as enthusiastic players and spectators straining for a good view. The only adults in the painting are a group of unemployed men smoking and passing the time over a broken wall, with only half an eye on what is going on behind them.

A Cricket Match comes from the collection of Neil and Gina Smith. Although based in America, where he met Gina, Neil was born and raised in Greater Manchester. Further paintings from their cherished collection, including works by John Constable and Pieter Brueghel the Younger, will be offered in our Old Master sales in London on 3 - 4 July. There will also be a dedicated, single-owner sale of their collection of fine English furniture and silver on 3 July.

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