The Representation of Association Football in Fine Art in England From its Origins to the Present Day

Physick, Ray (2013) The Representation of Association Football in Fine Art in England From its Origins to the Present Day. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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This thesis aims to explore the representation of football in art from its origins in Ancient Greece to the present day, although the main focus of the analysis will be upon representations of football in English art from the late Victorian period up to 2010. In general terms, with minor but notable exceptions, the analysis will centre on the work of fine artists working in 2D, whose work has length and width much like a football pitch. The thesis will look at how artists have approached the game be it action on the pitch, a focus upon spectators or the location of the football stadium. The thesis will also assess the work of artists have who explored societal issues such as gender, identity, race as well as violence in society using football as visual content to explore these issues. The aim throughout will be to place the artwork in a social and historical context, to provide a social analysis of football through art, to demonstrate that art ‘is always a social servant and historically utilitarian.’It could be argued that an historical approach to art may well impact upon aesthetic appreciation, but knowledge of when and how a piece of art was produced also helps to place the work in context. In other words, aesthetic appreciation is linked to historical relevance. What is also clear is that visual images, in themselves, cannot provide the sports historian with a history of football. They can, however, provide an
invaluable resource that can be used by social historians.

The key source material for this thesis is first and foremost the artwork itself, a significant body of which is located at the National Football Museum. However, other sources such as press and art magazine articles, exhibition catalogues, the art archives at the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Manchester Art Gallery as well as the substantial Football Association archive at National Football Museum, have also been of crucial importance. Also, a number of interviews with contemporary artists have provided invaluable primary source material: these artists have also allowed me to view their work and provided me with copies to facilitate the study of their work.

The major findings arising from the research are that the representation of football in art was not, once again with notable exceptions, prevalent until the foundation of the
Premier League in 1992. These exceptions include popular art depictions of football in the Edwardian period, work commissioned by Frank Pick on behalf of London Transport and the milestone Football and the Fine Arts exhibition of 1953. Overall analysis of the artwork has shown that art is a useful source for historians and that focus upon a particular art genre, in this instance football art, can provide different insights into a significant cultural practice.

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