The hopeless child at deep midwicket is facing the wrong way and the bowler is surely delivering a no ball but there is still much to enjoy in a rare painting being unveiled for the first time in more than 20 years.
Sotheby’s has announced the auction, from an American collection, of a 1938 painting by LS Lowry showing a cricket match on a wasteground in Salford.
When it was last sold in 1996, A Cricket Match set a then world record for a Lowry and prompted newspaper headlines along the lines of “Record hit for six!” The price then was £282,000; next month the estimate will be about £1m.
Simon Hucker, a senior specialist in modern and postwar art at Sotheby’s, said it was an outstanding painting and in many ways a classic example of the artist. “For me first and foremost it is a great Lowry. It has got all the elements you’d want in a Lowry – technical, compositional, thematic … it is all there.”
Hucker said there was a lot going on in the picture, and it carefully constructed by Lowry like a theatre set.
On the left are adults, probably unemployed, chatting and smoking in their own little world. Towards the right are children watching the match over a broken-down wall. In the foreground is a foreboding broken black fence and dirty still water. At the back is a dilapidated tenement with some of the flats inhabited, others abandoned.
In the middle are children enjoying themselves.
Hucker said children were important in Lowry’s world. “They are cyphers of the life you have before before all the cares and woes start. They stand for freedom and happiness and play.”
Cricket was a big part of life in 1930s Manchester but it is a rare subject for Lowry, featuring in only a few of his works. “It is really unusual,” said Hucker.
Interest in the painter is due to increase with the release of a new biopic, Mrs Lowry and Son, starring Timothy Spall as Lowry and Vanessa Redgrave as his mother. The Adrian Noble film gets its world premiere at the Edinburgh international film festival on 30 June.
Before the painting goes on sale in London on 18 June it will go on display at the Lowry in Salford between 23-27 May. It is being sold by US-based collectors Neil and Gina Smith.