ithell colquhoun magician born of nature
All texts copyright Richard Shillitoe

game of the year


Oil on canvas. 48 x 34in. (122 x 86cm.) Signed, titled and dated verso. Provenance Sotheby’s, studio sale, 24 April 1985, lot 562, ill. b/w Harry Langdon. FIFA. The National Football Museum. Exhibited London, New Burlington Galleries, 1954, no. 145. Preston, the National Football Museum, 2008. Hartlepool, Art Gallery, 2009. The painting once belonged to the journalist, Harry Langdon, who most probably purchased it at the studio sale in 1985. Langdon collected football memorabilia and football-related art, and sold his collection to FIFA, which then sold the collection to the National Football Museum as the basis for its collections. In 1953 the Football Association marked its 90th anniversary with a competition and exhibition called ‘Football and the Fine Arts’. With the support of the Arts Council the aim was to ‘convey something of the rich and exciting opportunities that football can offer the artist.’ From 1,710 entries from artists all over the UK, the judging panel, which included the then Directors of the Tate Gallery and the National Gallery, selected 150 works for inclusion in the final exhibition. They also awarded a number of prizes. The first prize was awarded to L.S. Lowry for Going to the Match. It is not known whether Colquhoun actually entered the competition, but her painting was not amongst those exhibited. In a letter to me dated 14th July 2003, Trevor Dannatt, the distinguished architect, wrote: I remember that she consulted me about a ‘Football’ painting competition she was going in for. I was rather amused as she wished to make the goalposts a different proportion, (more like a croquet hoop!) did I think it would matter? I think I said in this context it probably would. Evidently, Colquhoun did not take the advice. The imagery is strikingly similar to that in the Maze Hill murals, especially Crucifixion, although here the inspiration is secular. It has the overall effect of a totemic figure towering over a pair of diminutive goalposts. Colquhoun’s title probably refers to the famous 1953 FA Cup final between Blackpool and Bolton Wanderers in which Stanley Mathews finally won an FA Cup winners’ medal. It has been pointed out (Ray Physick, personal communication) that entry for the competition closed before the Cup final was played. On the other hand, It is not known when Colquhoun gave the painting its title.