“Going to the Match is among the earliest known, if not earliest, depictions of one of LS Lowry’s most iconic and timeless themes – that of spectators crowding for a sporting occasion,” Sotheby’s said in a statement.
Lowry is known for his pictures of crowds at soccer games, using his famous style of “matchstick” people against a monochrome pallet background to illustrate the cold and gray of northern England.
In 2011, Lowry’s 1949 painting “The Football Match” sold for £ 5.6 million ($ 9 million), while another work, “Football Ground” from 1953, was sold in 1999 by the UK Professional Footballers’ Association was bought for £ 1.9 million ($ 2.9 million).
“Going to the Match” is one of only a handful of Lowry paintings relating to the sport of rugby, which has a strong support base in the north of England.
In August 1895 I formed 22 clubs to create the Northern Rugby League and break away from the sport of rugby union so that working-class players could be compensated for lost wages while playing.
“The red flag waving on the ground, as well as the red scarves worn by several members of the crowd, suggest the local Salford Red Devils – Lowry team,” said Sotheby’s.
The painting was exhibited only once in 1966 and has been in the same family collection since 1972. It will be shown to the public in New York, Edinburgh and Dublin before auctioning in London on June 29th.
“People think the masses are all the same”
Speaking to art critic Edwin Mullins, Lowry said, according to Sotheby’s: “People think the masses are all the same. But they are not, you know. Everyone is different. Look! This man has a twitch. He has a limp. He drank too much beer. It’s wonderful, isn’t it? “
While working as a rental collector, Lowry attended art school part-time for 13 years.
“Going to the Match” was painted in the same year – 1928 – that a then 41-year-old Lowry finished his part-time education at art school.
“Lowry was the ultimate viewer,” said Frances Christie, Vice-Chair of Sotheby’s UK & Ireland. “In his compositions, which focus on sporting topics, he was particularly fascinated by the audience.
“This is probably not only 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 somewhere.
“In this phenomenal painting, the figures lean forward together, emphasizing their common purpose of being drawn to the rugby posts that are clearly visible on the left side of the canvas.
“The feeling of energy, excitement and anticipation before the game can be felt and today, almost 100 years after the painting, it will resonate with every sports enthusiast.”
Lowry died in 1976 at the age of 88.