LS Lowry’s “Going to the Match” is arguably his most famous painting. It is currently on show at the Lowry Museum in Salford. Although only a few months ago, the excellent dispatches from a football sofa discussed the work, seeing the actual painting myself last weekend prompted me to write a few words.
One of the great things about “Going to the Match” is that it is painted in the same manner as all of Lowry works. By that I mean, without compromise. Lowry set out to paint things as he saw them—almost reporter, rather than artist.
Indeed, there is another painting of his “The Chapel” that is famous because of the inclusion of what appears to be a five legged dog. When asked by a friend to explain its meaning, Lowry couldn’t recall painting it, but responded that “it must have been there, as I only paint what I see.”
Crowds of people feature in the majority of Lowry’s most famous works. He was fascinated by them. Often, his characters are seen as a seething mass pouring out of factories or walking bent against the wind towards destinations unknown. Are they going home? To the pubs? Each has their own story awaiting them, that we are not party to.
Not so with “Going to the Match.” We know exactly where the crowds are headed. The sign on the side of the stadium mentions Bolton Wanderers and Lowry lived not far from Burnden Park.
Stand far enough away from the painting and the streams of people almost create a star shape as they head from all directions—walking bent forwards again, as if in haste towards the football stadium.
The supporters are clad in the usual dark colours of Lowry’s heroes. No half and half scarves or colourful flags to break up the scene here. No. To do that Lowry tantalisingly, as discussed in the aforementioned dispatches, offers us a glimpse of the pitch.
This is the only romance he allows himself to show in the painting, that is, if we are to believe that it is perhaps a reminder of that first glimpse of green that we saw as we reached the top of the stairs as a child.
Admittedly, the painting held a prominent position in the room but still—almost every person that entered was entranced by it.
In 2013/14, the Football League celebrated 125 years of existence. Rochdale AFC -v- Hartlepool United was chosen as a celebratory fixture, having been the most frequently played fixture by any two clubs currently in The Football League.
The club website posted an image that was almost the other side of the coin to Lowry’s painting.
A leather ball sat on the pitch at Spotland. In one corner, there is the glimpse between the stands of the terraced streets that surround the ground. In inverting Lowry’s “sliver of pitch” device, where we get a glimpse of the romance, escapism and dreams that lie within the enclosures of the stadium—we also see the real world outside and the link to the community. Without which, the dreams could not exist.
Just across the Manchester Ship Canal from the Lowry Museum stands Old Trafford. The self-styled “Theatre of Dreams.”
No glimpses of the hallowed turf can be seen from the outside.