The Story of 'Going To The Match' at the williamson

The story of the first time this iconic painting came to the williamson

We're delighted to have LS Lowry's iconic painting 'Going To The Match' currently on display here at Williamson Art Gallery. But did you know it's actually the second time the painting has been displayed here?

In 1953, £3000 was offered in prize money for works of art that would depict the game of football or anything connected with it, as a celebration of the 90th anniversary of the Football Association (the FA). It was open to all, professional and amateur artists alike, and there were over 1700 entries. 32 prizes were awarded, and 127 additional works - a varied mixture of paintings, prints, drawings and sculpture - were chosen for an exhibition called "Football and the Fine Arts".

Initially displayed in London, the Arts Council toured almost the entire exhibition around the country, and it was shown at the Williamson in February 1954. LS Lowry’s now famous painting 'Going to the Match' was a prize-winner in the FA exhibition, touring with the other works.

Alongside the art exhibition, the Curator George Stratton decided to enhance the interest for football supporters and put together a substantial collection of trophies. The star exhibit was the FA Cup, but in addition the Irish, Scottish and Welsh Cups were all included, believed to be the only time they have ever been in the same room. The four English Football League division trophies and a host of other national, regional, schoolboy and local cups and shields were on display, numbering 68 in total.

In addition, on show were souvenirs and memorabilia from the FA themselves, Liverpool and Everton Football Clubs, and a range of personal items, medals, caps, etc, from personalities like Dixie Dean, Joe Mercer and Stanley Matthews.

The exhibition was at the Williamson for only two and a half weeks, but received over 21,000 visitors!

Almost unbelievably, whilst we do have archival photographs connected to the exhibition, not a single one features 'Going To The Match' in situ! The exhibition catalogue shows that it was definitely included. This may be because although it is now a much-beloved work, at the time of this exhibition it was brand new and had not yet acquired this significance. We are delighted that thanks to The Lowry, Salford, Arts Council England and The Sir Bobby Charlton Foundation, we have been able to bring it back to be enjoyed!

Thank you Colin Simpson for providing this text.

"Going To The Match On Tour" is on at the Williamson until 27th July 2024

Front cover of Football And The Fine Arts exhibition catalogue
Football legend Dixie Dean visiting the exhibition.
'Going To The Match' as listed in the 'Football & the Fine Arts' exhibition catalogue. The asterisk indicates the work as a prizewinner.