The role of art in cricket

A cricket treasury

John Arlott

A small gallery of paintings

Tossing for innings by Robert James
The field of cricket art extends from the masterpiece to completely `popular' - or folk - art; from Paul Sandby's 'Landscape with Cricket Match in Progress' to naive Staffordshire figures of cricketers: from a work in which cricket is merely incidental to the unsophisticated jumble of cricketana, important for its subject rather than any `pure' artistic quality. In Sandby's superb gouache, and the oil (c. 1850) by an unknown artist of `Cricket Match with a view of Christchurch Priory', the game of cricket is merely an ingredient of the landscape: either would grace any art collection and it would not be quite just to call them `cricket pictures'. The same applies to a number of 18th- and early-19th-century portraits, usually of youths, shown holding a cricket bat. Essentially these are portraits of the persons; the picture, as a work of art, would not be affected if a riding whip or a fishing rod were substituted for the bat. Most of the major oil paintings of the game are, in fact, landscapes, the cricketers tiny figures in the broad setting. Among the best are `Village Cricket' (1855) by John Ritchie, `A Cricket Match on Parker's Piece, Cambridge' (c. 1861: artist unknown), `A Match between the Army and the Navy at Portsmouth' (?H. Ladbrooke: 1800-1869), `Kent v Hampshire, 1774', `The Cricket Match' (?L. P. Boitard, c. 1740), `Gentlemen v Players at Brading, Isle of Wight' (c. 1749, attributed to Francis Hayman) and `A Cricket Match' (George Morland). There are numerous paintings in this style between 1750 and 1850, of varying degrees of excellence; there are also, undoubtedly, a number of copies and some downright forgeries. In recent years some pleasant oil paintings have been made of cricket grounds by Charles Cundall (Lord's and Hastings), Arthur Mailey, the Australian Test cricketer (Sandringham), Col C. T. Burt (Edgbaston), Olive Sharp (Brockton Point, Vancouver) and Mildred Smith Amandoz (Queen's Park Oval, Trinidad). `Village Cricket' by John Ritchie (1855)

Oil paintings of players exist in fair numbers but it would be hard to describe any of them as great; among the best - most of them hanging in various county pavilions - are W. G. Grace by A. Stuart-Wortley, Len Hutton by Henry Carr (in the possession of Sir Leonard Hutton), A. C. MacLaren, Sir Jack Hobbs, Lord Hawke, Wilfred Rhodes, S. F. Barnes and Denis Compton. There are also some few `character' paintings in oils, mostly produced about the middle of the last century, which have a genuine cricket feeling. The most important is that called `The Scorer' - actually William Davies, who was scorer to Lewes Priory Cricket Club - painted in 1842 by an artist of whom little is known, Thomas Henwood: the study of the old rustic, bespectacled and bearded, wearing a wide-brimmed straw hat and sitting at his table with his book, bottle, glass and churchwarden pipe, has been many times reproduced. James Hayllar was a little later than Henwood and there is, perhaps, a hint of sentimentality about his portrait-studies: nevertheless, his `Brewer's Dray-man, a Cricketer', `An Old Cricketer' and `Her First Lesson' have true human - and cricket - sympathy.

In the field of water-colour, crayon and pen-and-ink drawings there have been far more numerous contributions to cricket art. It includes the most historically important item of all cricket art, a single page, 74 by 94 inches, from the notebook of George Shepheard senior (1770?-1842), himself a cricketer who played for Surrey. The sheet contains 12 water-colour drawings of cricketers of whom 9 are named. Probably executed at a match at Lord's in about 1790, the studies are of Lord Frederick Beauclerk, the Hon Henry Tufton (11th Earl of Thanet), the Hon Charles Lennox (4th Duke of Richmond) and the Hon Edward Bligh - all amateur cricketers of the period - 2 of Thomas Lord, founder of the famous ground, and the only existing action portraits of 3 of the greatest of the Hambledon players, Tom Walker, David Harris and William Beldham. Its survival is surprising and happy; it is now in the possession of MCC and has been reproduced, entire and in detail, many times. George Belcher's `Impression of Jack Hobbs', `Herbert Strudwick' by Frank Eastman, `The Saffrons Ground, Eastbourne' by G. Prowse, several sketches of county grounds in about 1900 by W. A. Bettesworth, `The Cricketer' by W. Hunt, `The Oval in 1849' by C. J. Basebe, `The Long Room at Lord's' by Dennis Flanders and `Cricket at Phoenix Park, Dublin' by John Powell provide a good cross-section of this work.

Excerpt of Kent v Lancashire at Canterbury, 1906 by Albert Chevallier Tayler
Cricket art, however, has reached most people, and done so most happily, through engravings. The best-known of the early prints is `Cricket on the Artillery Ground, Finsbury' (1743), engraved on copper by Benoist after a painting by Francis Hayman, one of the series he and Hogarth executed for Vauxhall Gardens. It is said that the wicket-keeper in the scene is, in fact, Hogarth. This print has remained popular for two centuries. Another well-known 18th-century engraving first appeared in The Sporting Magazine in 1793 with the title `Grand Cricket Match played in Lord's Ground, Mary-lebone, on loth June and following day between the Earls of Winchilsea and Darnley for I,000 guineas'. For many years, however, the most widely circulated cricket prints were those - in some cases near-copies of the Hayman engraving - that appeared on the broadsheet, or handkerchief, reproductions of the early codes of laws. Another popular work of the pre-1800 period was the - usually - coloured engraving of John Collet's painting `Miss Wicket and Miss Trigger'. In the period of the popularity of aquatints - roughly 1775 to 1825 - some characteristic work was done in that manner on the theme of cricket. In their time most of them were issued in both coloured and uncoloured versions : but nowadays they are generally found coloured, often by a later hand. Two of the best are rather naive - `Cricket at White Conduit House: 1784', published by Bowles and Carver, and `Ireland's Royal Gardens, Brighton', drawn by H. Jones and engraved by G. Hunt, which was one of the plates in Sicklemore's Views of Brighton (1827). `North-east View of the cricket grounds at Darnall, near Sheffield, Yorkshire', after Robert Cruikshank and R. J. Thompson, and Pollard's `Cricket Match' are genuine cricket pictures; but, in most of the others, like `Salvadore House Academy, Tooting' (F. Jukes after J. Walker), `Laytonstone Academy, Essex' (J. Merigot after T. Atkins), `Rugby School' and `Hackney School', both by R. Reeve, and those in the Ackermann books, the game is incidental. A famous colour print of the same period is by Thomas Rowlandson - `Rural Sports' (1811) - of a match between XI women of Hampshire and XI of Surrey. It is drawn in Rowlandson's characteristic fashion, accurately observed, and with robust humour. The cricketer may say it is not seriously a cricket picture: the art critic would counter that it is good Rowlandson and that good Rowlandson is by artistic standards very good indeed.

The most popular cricket print of any age was issued by the Brighton publisher and cricketer, W. H. Mason. It is titled `A cricket match between the counties of Sussex and Kent, at Brighton'. Announced in 1843, it was first published in 1849 and reprinted from the original copper-plate 30 years later. Each of the 8-guinea subscribers received a 24-page prospectus and key which is now one of the major rarities of cricket-collecting. The title-page of the prospectus described the picture as `Introducing characteristic portraits of players engaged in the match as well as many Noblemen and Gentlemen, Patrons of the Noble Game of Cricket'. It continued, `The Portraits area all taken from life by Mr W. Drummond and Mr C. J. Basebe : engraved by G. H. Phillips'. Prices were - prints 3 guineas, proofs 6 guineas, Artists' Proofs (upon Indian paper) 8 guineas. The players represented never appeared together in a Sussex-Kent match, though all of them took part in the fixture between 1849 and 1851. It is, in fact, a fine collection of portraits of 71 of the main figures of the game at that time, and it was finely executed. Despite its popularity it was almost the ruin of the unhappy Mason. During the 30 years the plate lay idle, the picture was constantly `pirated', copied, misattributed and wrongly described, but it was, meanwhile, becoming the best-known of all cricket prints; and still is to be met with in cricket pavilions all over the world. Though the original - Mason - plate was engraved on copper, its most attractive form probably is the `pirated' lithograph - found both coloured and uncoloured - by S. Lipschitz. The unmistakable difference between the two versions is that, in the original, there is a central gap between the foreground figures; in the Lipschitz version, with no loss of artistic quality, the gap is closed. The engraved surface of the Mason is 42 by 30 inches; of the Lipschitz, 231 by 174 inches.

The great period of cricket art undoubtedly was the middle of the nineteenth century when the technique of lithography had been mastered. The output of cricket lithographs consists of less than a hundred, of teams and individual players. They are delicate, decorative, and contemporary judges considered the majority to be good likenesses. They continue to appreciate in value. The finest of them - probably the finest of `pure' cricket art - are 8 lithographs by G. F. Watts. Their titles are `Play', `Forward!', `The Draw', `The Cut', `Leg Half-Volley' and `Leg Volley' - all drawn direct on to the stone by the artist - 'The Bowler' (Alfred Mynn) and `The Batsman' (Fuller Pilch). `Felix' (Nicholas Wanostrocht) is said to have been the model for the first 5 of the strokes and the Hon Fred Ponsonby for `Leg Volley'. Watts's pencil studies for these lithographs - 6 are in the possession of MCC - show, in several cases, the process of Watts's translation of Felix from a left-hand batsman to right hand. They capture balanced movement and a quality of vibrant life quite magnificently.

Eton v Harrow 1886 by Albert Chevallier Tayler
Three major lithographs of the period are of team-groups. The rarest is `The Two Elevens of the Town and University of Cambridge in 1847', drawn by Felix (Nicholas Wanostrocht); the other 2 are `The Eleven of England Selected to contend in the Great Cricket Matches of the North for the year 1847', also by Felix, and `The United All England Eleven' (c. 1852). All of them are carefully made portraits of the players, pleasing in their period fashion. The remainder of the group consists almost entirely of portraits of individual players, most of them by John Corbet Anderson. Virtually the only other artists credited are Felix, C. J. Basebe and W. Drummond. Anderson's warm line and delicate colouring lent itself perfectly to lithography and he invariably drew on the stone himself. The engraved surface of most of his portraits measures about 13 inches high by 9 inches; but the series called `Sketches at Lord's' consists of 12 portraits, 7 inches high by 5 inches, which were issued in 3 sheets with 4 pictures on each. Felix published the studies of G. F. Watts, who for a time was an evening pupil at Felix's school, and several others, some of which were from his own drawings, though a lithographer transferred them to stone. Apart from the 2 team groups, his most popular print was one of himself with Alfred Mynn. Felix was a prolific painter and did some work in oils. The 3 editions of his book Felix on the Bat were illustrated with different sets of lithographs. There is a considerable collection of his work, mostly in water colour and ranging from self-portraits to views of cricket grounds, in the MCC collection at Lord's. Basebe, who also employed a lithographer, was responsible, too, for the series of 8 sensitive aquatint portraits of players used to illustrate Lillywhite's Hand Book of Cricket and they were also sold separately : they now tend to be more rare than the lithos. He and Drummond were, of course, the artists employed by Mason on his `Sussex and Kent' print. Most of these lithographs can be come by with fair ease through the better print dealers - perhaps Hankey and Nixon are the least common. A few years ago their price was usually about to shillings; nowadays to pounds is sometimes asked. Originally they were undoubtedly issued plain - in a uniform sepia or yellowish shade - as well as coloured; now most of the plain prints have been coloured to meet taste and demand.

Immediately upon the heels of the lithographs came an even more widely distributed and popular series of cricket illustrations. No. 1 of Vanity Fair was published on 6 November 1868, as `a weekly show of political, social and literary wares'. On 30 January 1869, it increased its price to 6d and included its first `Full-page cartoon of an entirely novel character printed in chrome-lithography'. For some 30 years Vanity Fair, through its weekly cartoon and the - sometimes libellous - prose commentary which accompanied it, was an important ingredient of the British social and political scene. After 1900 its power waned though it continued under its own name until 1913 and some reference books credit it with continuing to exist, after amalgamations and in changed forms, until 1929. Selection as the subject of the Vanity Fair cartoon conferred a stamp of importance - sufficient importance to be publicly praised or attacked - and, since the choice was taken from all fields of activity and from all countries, cricketers were not portrayed very frequently. The first, of course, was W. G. Grace - in the issue of 9 June 1877. Between that date and August 1913, when E. W. Dillon, the captain of Kent, was selected, 31 cricketers were portrayed as cricketers in Vanity Fair cartoons: a rate of less than one a year. But some 40 celebrities who had also played first-class or major public school cricket, or held high office in the game - such as President of MCC - were included primarily for their eminence in some other field. C. B. Fry, for instance, was drawn as a runner; the Hon No Bligh, after he had become the Earl of Darnley, was shown in a City suit. Only 2 of the cricketers qua cricketers - the Hon Alfred Lyttelton and G. J. Bonnor - were drawn by the earliest and most savage of the Vanity Fair cartoonists - `Ape' (Carlo Pellegrini). Most of them were done by `Spy' (Sir Leslie Ward), but there were 2 by 'Stuff' and one each by AJS, OWL, WH, Lib and CG. The style of the drawings varies considerably between Ape's mischievously astute exaggerations and the mild near-portraiture of Spy and most of the other later artists. All, though, make gay and colourful contributions to the walls of a cricket pavilion or club. The earlier prints - from the paper's heyday of wide circulation (once even a `third edition' in a week) - are relatively easy to come by; those post-1900 are not quite so simple to find. Once more, prices have risen. Vanity Fair cartoons in 1939 cost a shilling; now they are expensive. In 1905, the Art Society published, in weekly parts and later in a bound edition, under the title The Empire's Cricketers, a series of 48 drawings by A. Chevallier Tayler, with text by G. W. Beldam. The drawings, folio in size, are printed on dark grey paper and make heavy use of chinese white. They are not unpleasant but lack movement and character; nevertheless they enjoyed a period of popularity.

England v Australia, Lord's, 1938 by Charles Cundall RA
Cricket was sometimes employed as a vehicle of political satire by 19th-century caricaturists. But the first of the popular cricket cartoonists was the man who signed his work `Rip'. His drawings can be found in the Evening News Cricket Annual (1897-1907), his own sporadic volumes called Kricket Karicatures, and a number of periodicals. The master of all this kind was Tom Webster who, shortly after the First World War, began to draw for the Daily Mail and continued with Tom Webster's Annual and for other papers until about 1960. Webster was an original, with a happy sense of humour and an inventive pencil, but he could sting. He spread his attention over most sports but produced some imperishable cricket drawings; his favourite cricket `characters' - Percy Fender, Patsy Hendren, George Duckworth, Maurice Tate and Jack Hobbs - come sharply back into the memory as Webster drew them. Arthur Mailey, the New South Wales and Australian Test leg-break bowler, ranged from oil-painting through charcoal portraits to caricature. Between 1920 and 1953 he published some half-dozen booklets of cartoons of cricketers of his time and the well-known separate drawing of Bradman. He illustrated his autobiography Ten for 66 and All That with sketches simple, perceptive, evocative and humorous. Roy Ulyett, of the Daily Express, who also produces an annual volume of drawings, has followed Webster's method closely, and his `Fred Trueman' is an awe-inspiringly funny creation. The term cricketana covers a wide area, of broadsheets, postcards, posters, silver-work, pottery, trophies and other ephemera too varied to list. We may be concerned here largely with items of `popular' or `folk' art. Notable in this kind are the 2 large - 13-inch - coloured Staffordshire pottery figures of about 1855, usually said, though not on completely conclusive evidence, to represent Julius Caesar (Surrey) and George Parr (Notts). There is more certainty in describing a smaller figure as Thomas Box and a rather poor piece of modelling as W. G. Grace. There are, too, a number of rather sentimental Staffordshire pieces of children holding bats, or bowling. A Bow china figure of W. G. Grace is more sophisticated and there are numerous plates commemorating Grace's career. One isolated item of some charm is a `Stevensgraph' of a cricket scene. These small pictures, embroidered in coloured silk, were manufactured by T. Stevens of Coventry and had something of a vogue in the latter part of the 19th-century. From the 189os onwards many series of cigarette cards and trade cards have been issued, frequently in colour, depicting outstanding cricketers of the day. Since 1948 Miss Mary Mitchell Smith has been responsible for some firmly modelled pottery figures. For some years, too, the Royal Worcester factory made a limited number of bone china plates with a gilt border and reproductions of the signatures of the touring sides, with a special `Ashes' plate bearing facsimile of the Australian and English teams of 1953.

In 1941 Messrs B. T. Batsford Ltd published The Noble Game of Cricket, a large quarto book with a hundred reproductions, some coloured, of famous cricket paintings and prints, almost all of them of considerable significance, from the large collection of Sir Jeremiah Colman. Unfortunately the edition was limited to 150, only 100 of which were for sale, and copies have become hard to find and expensive when found. Happily, in 1955, the same firm produced The Game of Cricket with 34 reproductions of major cricket pictures, a distinguished essay by Sir Norman Birkett and notes on the illustrations by Miss Diana Rait Kerr. Cricket by Horace G. Hutchinson in the Country Life Library of Sport (1903) has loo plates of sensitively chosen cricket pictures, and is usually described as the best illustrated book of its kind. Green and White, subtitled 'Fenner's Observed', consists of high quality drawings and photographs by 10 students of the Cambridge School of Art. An exhibition of modern paintings under the title `Play the Game' at Frost & Reed's Gallery in Bristol in 1976 showed some interesting developments in cricket pictures. Period-primitive portraits and team groups by Gerry Wright had a strong Victorian flavour. Roger Marsh showed some historically sensitive portraits taken from photographs. Strikingly strong, large oils full of action, by Rosemary Taylor, of modern player-groups captured much attention. Outstanding, though, was the work of Laurence Toynbee. He does not by any means confine himself to cricket; though a preponderance of his work is on sporting and outdoor subjects. He would want to be known as a painter with a liking for cricket. Neither is the quality of his work entirely even. He is, though, as highly accomplished a painter as any who has produced any bulk of work on cricket; and he ought to be collected by the cricketing establishments. The greatest recent advance is among the photographers, inheriting directly from G. W. Beldam, and the Devon-born Australian emigrant, Herbert Fishwick, working with more sophisticated and advanced techniques; Patrick Eagar, Ken Kelly and Bruce Postle have, with high professional skill, illuminated the game in a way that has not been done before with the camera. For the rest, reference to cricket pictures is largely through catalogues, such as Catalogue of the Imperial Cricket Memorial Gallery, Lord's; MCC Catalogue 1912; Two Centuries of Cricket Art (Graves Art Gallery, Sheffield, 1955); Cricket Exhibition (National Gallery of British Sport and Pastimes, 1953); and Catalogue of the collection at `The Yorker' (Whitbread & Co Ltd).

Reproduced with permission of Barclay's World of Cricket (1980)