Not just Any Wintry Afternoon in England: the curious contribution of C.R.W. Nevinson to ‘football art'

Hughson, John orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-7030-4806 (2011) Not just Any Wintry Afternoon in England: the curious contribution of C.R.W. Nevinson to ‘football art'. The International Journal of the History of Sport, 28 (18). pp. 2670-2687. ISSN 0952-3367

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This paper considers the painting Any Wintry Afternoon in England (1930) (AWA) by the prominent artist and social commentator C.R.W. Nevinson (1889–1946). The painting is one of few, and perhaps the best-known, by an English fine artist to take football as its subject matter during the first 40 years of that sport's professional existence. The paper concentrates on gaining an understanding of this painting within the context of Nevinson's biography. Of course, a painting may well be admired by viewers without any knowledge of the painter at all, and no issue is taken in the paper with the possibility of totally independent readings. But from an art-history and cultural-history perspective, knowledge of a painter's biography is significant in allowing for consideration of the artwork as a product of its time. In the case of AWA, knowledge of Nevinson's hostility to sport supports the view of a leading critic, on the occasion its of its exhibition, that the painting was intended as a satire on the mass popularity of football in England in the 1920s. Forearmed with this knowledge, wariness can be taken against subsequent attempts to locate AWA within a genre of ‘football paintings’ that represent an enthusiasm for the game. Nevinson's earlier involvement with Futurism had acquainted him with that movement's tendency to take aspects of popular culture as inspiration for art. But Nevinson took football as a derisory subject matter rather than inspiration and in doing so put AWA at odds with the contemporaneous visual representations of football that had begun to appear in popular mediums such as postcards and film. Yet, contrary to some wishful interpretations though it may be, AWA, owing to its very contrariness, remains an important historical image in the visual representation of football as popular culture.

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