A Lowry painting thought to feature Salford rugby league supporters is set to be sold for up to £3 million.
The painting, titled Going to the Match, will be unveiled to the public this summer after 55 years in private hands before being auctioned at Sotheby’s at the end of June, with a guide price of £2-£3 million.
It was painted by Lowry in 1928 and likely shows the supporters of the Red Devils, back then just known as Salford, his local side, as they make their way to a game.
It has remained apart of a family album since 1972 but will now be making a rare public appearance, the first since 1966, in London, Edinburgh, Dublin and New York before its auction on June 29.
Frances Christie, deputy chairman of Sotheby’s UK & Ireland, commented: “Lowry was the ultimate onlooker, and in his compositions focusing on sporting subjects, it is the crowd that fascinated him above all else.
“Not only is this likely to be the earliest sports related picture Lowry painted, but it is also one of his very first depictions of a mass of people going to and from anywhere.
“In this phenomenal painting, the figures lean forward in unison, emphasising their common purpose in being drawn to the rugby posts clearly visible on the left-hand side of the canvas.
“The pre-match sense of energy, excitement and anticipation is palpable and will resonate with any sports lover today, almost 100 years after it was painted.”
Although not officially confirmed, there are strong hints and visual clues that the painting is of Salford supporters, due to Lowry’s strong links to the city and the red scarves and flags seen in the piece.
If I had £3m would I spend it on “Going to the Match” by LS Lowry, which comes up for auction. You bet I would and why ? Because the match they are going to has to be Rugby League, my guess is Oldham v Salford 24 Oct 1928, Oldham won 12-2. pic.twitter.com/fYPm80SRxL
— Paul Greenwood (@Paul_Defender) May 2, 2021
Lowry, who studied at the Salford School of Art, later on went to paint pictures of football crowds, but this was his first painting of a rugby league crowd.
A painting of a similar football crowd, also titled Going to the Match, was sold for £1.9 million in 2019 by the Professional Footballers Association in 1999.
— Helecon (@Spiros209) May 2, 2021
Regarding his love for sporting pictures, Lowry, quoted in conversation with art critic Edwin Mullins said:
“People think crowds are all the same. But they’re not, you know. Everyone’s different. Look! That man’s got a twitch. He’s got a limp. He’s had too much beer… It’s wonderful isn’t it.”
The painting is expected to receive attention from around the world, and follows the news that another of Lowry’s paintings, featuring former PM David Lloyd-George’ is to be displayed at The Lowry gallery in Salford Quays.