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Australian cricket's arty roots exposed

Turns out it's not all hairy-backed sheelas and tinnies by the barbie

Alan Tyers
12-Jan-2015
Josh Hazlewood trapped R Ashwin leg before, Australia v India, 4th Test, Sydney, 5th day, January 10, 2015

Josh Hazlewood pays homage to Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian Man sketch  •  Getty Images

Australia have named their World Cup squad at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, just the latest link in the rich shared history between Australian cricket and the plastic arts down under, writes Professor Brad "Bluey Period" Patterson of the Institute of Fine Arts and Fooling Around in the Sheep Dip, Narromine.
The most important figure in the early development of modern art in Australia was Paul Gauguin, a painter and offspinner who often chipped in with useful runs down the order and a revolutionary approach to the colour palette in post-impressionist art.
Gauguin, of course, travelled to French Polynesia towards the end of his life but eventually tired of painting native girls in the half-nip, and so paddled the short 7000km over to Oz when selected to play in the Boxing Day Test match in Melbourne.
He was the first man to introduce post-impressionist techniques, as well as the carrom ball, to the country. Sadly, he was later called for chucking by an over-zealous umpire who had taken exception to his Blimey Boys That Bloke at Short Extra Looks Like a Sheila (1902) canvas at Sydney's most important (but hidebound) gallery, Brad's Salon and Washroom. Gauguin drifted out of cricket to spend more time with the scantily clad girls in Tahiti. It was both a personal humiliation, an artistic tragedy and a setback for fingerspin in Australia.
However, Gauguin inspired Picasso to come to Australia to get away from the harsh Paris winters and get some games under his belt in Grade cricket. Picasso insisted on always leading the side in the team victory song, "The Southern Cubist", an honour that is to this day given to the most provocative artist in the Australian XI and one that Simon Katich was proud to fulfil for many years.
The unparalleled success of the Steve Waugh era was largely modelled on the ideas of production as art inspired by the Bauhaus. Waugh encouraged all the players to study the aesthetics and techniques of the German art school, and often kidnapped his team-mates for month-long field trips there. These were not universally popular. Shane Warne, for example, argued instead for a return to a more pastoral, impressionistic direction for the Baggy Green movement, inspired by the patterns a pizza made on his chest hair when he dropped it on himself in the bath.
The most significant cricketing artist at work today in the country is beyond question Mitchell Johnson, whose early work was modelled on the explosive, scattergun canvases of Jackson Pollock. In his mature period, Mitchell has begun working in an intense, minimalist style inspired by the likes of Barnett Newman, focusing entirely on large canvases of block colour (always green and gold) with terrifying moustaches crudely drawn on them.

More sporting art in The History Of Sport in 100-ish Objects here