Five sport themed works


JMW Turner, Yachts Sailing in the Solent, c1827

  • Tate Britain
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JMW Turner began his career as a colourist of sporting prints. He was so determined to portray nature accurately that he once tied himself to a ship's mast in order to view the ocean's waves from a close vantage point. This drawing is from his Isle of Wight sketchbook, which can be viewed by appointment at Tate Britain.


Archibald John Stuart Wortley (attributed), William Gilbert (W.G.) Grace, 1890

  • National Portrait Gallery
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Some sportsmen transcend their sports. William Gilbert Grace not only transcended cricket but redefined it, over a 35-year career in which he broke innumerable records. Grace had a distinctive appearance, with 'ample girth' and an enormous beard that 'scorned the puny modern fashion of moustaches'. He was a qualified medical practitioner and a famously heavy drinker – when Lord Sheffield toured Australia in 1891-92, the overheads incurred through Grace's drinking were held partly responsible for Sheffield's failure to return a profit. While Grace was a formidable all-rounder on field, his batting was the strongest weapon in his armoury, scoring him almost 55,000 runs over his first-class career.


Unknown, The Townley Discobolus, c2nd century

  • British Museum
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This statue of a classical athlete is one of the most famous images from the ancient world. It is a marble copy of the bronze original from the 5th century BC attributed to the sculptor Myron. This copy mistakenly has the head pointing away from the discus, when it should be looking towards it.


Henry Raeburn, The Skating Minister, c1795

  • Scottish National Gallery
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This oil painting of Robert Walker, a Church of Scotland minister, was practically unknown until about 1949 but has since become one of Scotland's best-known works. It was painted during one of the most remarkable periods in the country's history, the Scottish Enlightenment.


Lawrence Toynbee, Close Passing Among the Forwards, 1961

  • Herbert Art Gallery & Museum
  • 50% off exhibitions with National Art Pass

Sports are an ideal subject for an artist with a gift for conveying movement. Pictures of games were central to Lawrence Toynbee's career, which saw him painting subjects from school boxing to the clash of Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge. Strongly influenced by Anthony Fry's paintings of dancers, Toynbee captured the speed and dynamism of a sport match at full pelt, as in this impressionistic rendering of a rugby game. The forwards' legs are reduced to footless streaks of paint, their faces undistinguishable within the movement. Toynbee's own sporting prowess may have helped his art: he bowled out three first-class batsmen while representing Oxford against the British army in a cricket match at Lord's in 1942.

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