MCC's British Art Collection has over 3,000 pictures documenting cricket world-wide but a newly acquired drawing by Laurence Stephen Lowry will certainly enhance the collection.
Lowry recorded many rituals of public life, including people at sporting events, protesting at rallies and commuting to work.
He was a football fan and knew little of cricket, but the Game was an important activity in Pendlebury in Lancashire, where he lived for over 40 years. Lowry tackled the subject of cricket in two rare oil paintings, A Cricket Sight-board (1964) and A Cricket Match (1952) and MCC has acquired a drawing on paper for the latter assigned the title The Mill, Lunchtime; a Cricket Match.
In these examples, Lowry's friend, the collector Alick Leggat, Honorary Treasurer of the Lancashire County Cricket Club, and dedicated cricket supporter, was drafted in to advise on the position of the players in the composition.
The picture show a friendly lunchtime cricket match in progress against a background of factories and churches and is typical of the way Lowry chose to comment on social spaces and modern working-class life in the Greater Manchester area.
Lowry said that his townscapes were composites of urban life ‘Made up; part real and part imaginary ... bits and pieces of my home locality’. He developed a distinctive style of painting and is best known for his urban landscapes peopled with human figures often referred to as "matchstick men". Almost none of the figures are actually looking at the match. A cluster of spectators jostle in the foreground, and another group in the far distance appear to be laying bets on the outcome. The dramatic action stimulated by this game is contrasted with the stillness of the mill, which looms large over these figures, a symbol of the daily grind.
The figures in the top left are grouped tightly so that it becomes hard to identify which legs belong to which body. In fact, some figures seem to have three legs which mirror the three stumps. Indeed, people in Lowry’s work are often anonymous and in movement defined by work or an activity. Lowry’s figures are like ants working together in a colony dwarfed by an industrial mecca, rather than individuals with families and thoughts.
A large collection of Lowry's work is on permanent public display in The Lowry, a purpose-built art gallery on Salford Quays named in his honour. Lowry rejected five honours during his life, including a knighthood in 1968, and consequently holds the record for the most rejected British honours. On 26 June 2013 a major retrospective opened at the Tate Britain in London.
The Mill, Lunchtime; a Cricket Match is the only drawing in the Collections showing cricket being played in a modern industrial townscape in the North West of England. It is key to showing the history and development of the Game in a socio-cultural context and is a crucial part of cricket’s art history. It also fills an important gap in the Club’s modern art collection as the main strengths are fine and contemporary works, especially portraits.
MCC is delighted hold a drawing for one of only two known oil paintings documenting cricket by Lowry. It is an extremely rare example of street cricket captured by a prominent British Artist.