I came across this painting – Any Wintry Afternoon in England (1930) by CRW Nevinson – during a visit to the Manchester City Art Gallery. It’s a rare example of a Futurist work by a British artist.
Futurists were interested in portraying action and speed so a football match makes a good subject. I think Nevinson really got across the frantic rough and tumble of the game. At first glance, with the huddle of players, I thought he was actually portraying a game of rugby. And the red and white hoops on the jumpers on one of the teams is the same as Wigan Rugby League Club’s strip. But the round ball gives the game away – literally.
Futurists were enthralled by technology and the artist has included a train, running at full steam and belching out smoke in the composition, behind the football players, emphasising speed and energy. The background is dominated by the typical Northern Industrial landscape of terraced houses, factories and chimneys and a grey, smoky sky. So Nevinson obviously wanted to make it clear where the game was taking place. And I think he captures the feel of the location very well, although I don’t think he was trying to be complementary. After all, it’s supposed to be grim up North.
Is it a professional match he’s portrayed? Personally I don’t think so. The scene looks typical of the many amateur matches that take place over the weekend in many towns across the country – not just in the north. And with a change in the styling of the players’ kit, a more modern train, and if most of the factories were painted out (after all industry in the north has been devastated and most mills and older factories have been demolished) the scene is still representative of typical wintery afternoon in 2013.
I hadn’t heard of Nevinson before I saw this painting, so did a little research on the Net. His full name was Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson, and that he was the son of Henry Nevinson, the radical journalist, and his first wife Margaret, an activist in the campaign for women’s rights (Spartacus Educational website).
He attended the Slade school of art and became influenced by the Italian Futurists. A war artist during the First World War he created a number of futurist style paintings. His later paintings, such as Paths of Glory, depicting two fallen British soldiers in a field of mud and barbed wire were much more realistic – too realistic for the establishment. His war time paintings have been referred to as “the most memorable and harrowing images of that conflict”.
According to the Tate website
By 1919 he had given up Futurism. Retreating instead to a more traditional vision
But Any Wintry Afternoon in England was created in 1930, so that isn’t entirely true.