Story behind iconic LS Lowry painting which perfectly depicts walk that has lived on through generations

As 'Going to the Match' goes on a tour of the North West, we take a look at its origins and significance.
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LS Lowry produced many iconic works of art during an illustrious career, and several of these depicted working class life in North West England. Born in Stretford, Manchester in 1887, Lowry used his work to show scenes of people going about their day-to-day lives. 

One of these is his 1953 work ‘Going to the Match’. The work shows football fans on their way to watch Bolton Wanderers at their first home, Burnden Park. It is a painting that incorporates the pastime of a town going to watch their football team play, with signs of the heavy industry that employed so many people in the town. 

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The cotton mills of the town are shown to be billowing smoke, but the main focus of each supporter making the walk to the old ground is the match. Originally, the painting was named ‘The Football Match’ before being changed. It was first put on display at a gallery in London the same year it was completed.

Lowry’s influences for this work are clear in the painting. He was a football fan himself, following Manchester City, and he also lived in Pendlebury, just six miles from where the stadium once stood. The scene of football ground floodlights and factory chimneys dominating the skyline is one Lowry was likely familiar with, especially being from this particular corner of the UK.  

Just before the turn of the millennium, ‘Going to the Match’ was sold by Sotheby's at auction for £1,926,500. At the time, this was a record for a British artwork at the time, and it was moved to be in public display at The Lowry in the early 2000s. 

The artwork was permanently brought to it’s Salford home in 2022 when, with financial support from The Law Family Charitable Foundation, the venue was able to buy it at auction for £7.8 million. The work has been on display since, but it’s currently on the road. 

Going to the Match is an iconic work by a Manchester artistGoing to the Match is an iconic work by a Manchester artist
Going to the Match is an iconic work by a Manchester artist
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The work is out on tour across the North West, and will remain so until the start of 2025. It is currently at Gallery Oldham, where it will remain until the end of February. Over the course of the next 12 months, it will be available to see in Blackpool, Birkenhead, Manchester and finally Bury, where it is set to leave and return to The Lowry in Salford at the start of February 2025.  

Football is often talked about as escapism. For many fans in the early to mid 20th century going to the match would have been a relief from their jobs which in Lancashire would likely have been down coal mines or in cotton mills and factories. 

Going to football matches has for a long time been a staple of a Saturday afternoon for supporters. A trip to the football is a leisure activity people have been looking forward to for over a century, and the buzz of walking to the ground and seeing it in front of you is one that has been passed through the generations. There might be not better depiction of it than Lowry's iconic piece.

Going to the Match Tour Dates 2023-2025 

  • Gallery Oldham: December 2 2023 - February 24 2024 
  • The Grundy Art Gallery, Blackpool: March 2 2024 - March 30 2024    
  • Williamson Art Gallery and Museum, Birkenhead: April 19 2024 - July 27 2024             
  • The National Football Museum, Manchester: August 19 2024 - September 1 2024 
  • Bury Art Museum: October 2024 - February 1 2025         

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