THOMAS M. M. HEMY (1852-1937) - PAGE 62
1) SUNDERLAND v ASTON VILLA 1895 or
A CORNER KICK (1895)
2) HARROW SCHOOL FOOTER FIELD (YEAR?)
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This work would so far seem to have three different names. 'Sunderland v Aston Villa 1895', 'A Corner Kick', or possibly just 'Corner Kick', and 'The Last Minute - Now or Never!'. Stay tuned! Maybe yet more names will surface.
At almost the bottom of a now non-existent web page administered, I believe by a Mr. John A. Doig, reference was made to a giant 1895 painting, 'Sunderland v Aston Villa 1895', 12 x 8 1/2 feet in size by artist Thomas M. M. Hemy. That page provided quite a lot of detail about the work and the players depicted & indicated, I recall, that that work was today in the Sutherland Museum and Art Gallery. From what I have seen and read, however, the original is not now in the Sunderland Museum and Art Gallery. But rather is displayed in the main reception area of the 'The Stadium of Light', the current home stadium, constructed in 1997, of the Sunderland A.F.C. (Association Football Club) as the club has been named since 1880. (Sunderland is on England's north-east coast, south & east of Newcastle). And a 'replica' of the work, i.e. a reproduction of it, is in the Academy of Light, the Club's training facility. The earliest painting of soccer in the world it would seem. And published in the late 19th century as a print entitled 'A Corner Kick'. It, the print, is visible lower on this page. Towards the bottom of the page we now have a composite image of the actual work, in situ.
A WWW site (page long gone) of the 'National Football Museum' seemed to refer to the Hemy work as being dating from 1893. But if the football match the work depicts dates from Jan. 1895, that would seem to be quite unlikely. The game depicted was played on Jan. 2, 1895, I read.
Since most of the above was written, I have receive a most interesting message from a site visitor, Mike Jordan, a life long supporter of Sunderland A.F.C. Thanks so much, Mike! Mike tells me that the official nickname of the club is "The Black Cats" but they are known locally just as "The lads". He has advised as follows:
The official title of the Hemy work, per the Museum is 'Sunderland v Aston Villa 1895. It is indeed on display at the new stadium, 'The Stadium of Light', and the display there features a full size wooden football placed at the bottom of the huge ornate and gilded frame. The name of each player and official is etched on individual pieces of ivory placed along the bottom of the frame in line with their relative position in the painting. The work was originally commissioned by the Club to celebrate the winning of the Football League Trophy three times in four seasons (1892, 1893 and 1895). This all happened during the Club's stay at the Newcastle Road Ground. Due to the success of the team, a new, larger stadium (capacity 30,000) was built at Roker Park in 1898. I am not 100% sure where the completed painting was originally displayed but I would presume that it was at Roker Park. Sometime in the 1930s the painting was hung in the main stand reception of Roker Park (when the capacity had risen to 75,000) above a staircase, and there it remained until a few years before Roker Park was demolished in 1998. It was decided at this time to get the painting professionally cleaned and the frame restored to its original condition. Because of the Club's intention to move to a new purpose built stadium, the restored painting was displayed in the Town Museum and Art Gallery for a few years. It was always intended that the painting would be displayed at the new stadium and as such the main reception area was designed with this in mind. The painting is kept behind protective glass and dominates the marbled reception area.
Although the figures painted are not the most life-like I've ever seen, the overall effect is stunning. The print you show is of very poor quality (taken long before the restoration) and is probably the worst I have seen among the many issued officially and unofficially by the Club.
A few facts about the painting. It would appear that there are eleven outfield players representing Sunderland in the picture. In fact there are ten outfield players plus a goalkeeper. In those days, the goalkeeper had to wear the same strip as the outfield players, which must have led to much confusion at times. Incidentally the goal keeper is wearing the cap. The penalty area at that time was shaped differently from today - two semi circles meeting at a point where the penalty spot is in the modern game (on close inspection the outline can just be seen). Nowadays the area is a large rectangle. The game depicted was played in January. This is backed up by the fact that large heaps of straw can be seen around the outside of the pitch and a few straw ends on it. The straw was used for protection against frost, and was still being used right up until a few years ago by a large number of clubs in Britain. The ground where the match took place is now a housing estate sited a few hundred yards from the present home of the Club.
All most interesting!
Since the above was written, Paul Days, Historian of the Sunderland A.F.C., has provided some new & most interesting data. Paul advises that in order to raise money in the early part of the 20th century, Sunderland A.F.C. offered the Hemy work as first prize in a raffle! As reported by the club in its end of season report way back in about 1903. No one, however, claimed the picture when the winning ticket was drawn, so the football club placed the painting in storage for a number of years in a Sunderland warehouse. Now the work IS very large indeed - 12 x 8 1/2 feet - and would not fit on any wall in my home, that is for sure. And probably not in your home either. So I might well have passed on the opportunity myself had I held the winning ticket! Being so very large, the work realistically needs to be viewed from a distance to be seen properly, so is best displayed in a public area where space is available.
Paul also points out one particular man in the work, a man with a moustache on the far side of the pitch. In the work as a linesman. Paul says that that man is generally regarded to be Tom Watson who was the Sunderland Club Manager at the time. It is thought that he was originally 'missed' in the painting & to correct the 'oversight' he was added into the artwork as a linesman. Now the names of those depicted in the work are recorded along the bottom of the work as it is today framed, & Tom Watson is the fellow in the background holding what looks to be a white flag. In the left side of the image below on this page in what I may best describe as being the 'gap' between the players.
There is more! Paul advises that the 1990s costly restoration of the painting & frame was paid for with funds raised by the SAFC Supporters Club. That is good to know. And that the banks of terracing visible in the painting were probably not, in fact, that steep. Artistic licence perhaps? And Thomas Hemy? 1937, the year of his death, produced Sunderland A.F.C.'s very first FA Cup final win over Preston North End at Wembley Stadium. I wonder whether the artist was alive to be able to witness that victory. It would seem that he was probably not. He died on Apl. 03, 1937. The Cup Final would probably have been rather later in the year, I would expect.
Thanks to Paul Days, we can show you next the work as it was displayed on the stairs at Roker Park. It would seem that the work may have been commissioned by Samuel Wilson, who donated the painting to the club, as per the plaque shown below the painting.
Paul, thank you so much for your valued contributions.
In late May 2012, thanks to David Sloan, we can now provide some additional information about the Hemy work & where it was located. David remembers the painting being at Roker Park, on a staircase on the way to the upstairs bar. A difficult location since when you climbed the stairs you were too close to the painting to be able to see it well. It is indicated above that the work was first prize in an early Sunderland A.F.C. fund-raising raffle, but that the prize was not in fact claimed. David advises that James Henderson was at that time the club's Chairman & that James Henderson's father (operating as Jas. Henderson & Sons) owned a Sunderland public house named 'The Bells'. 'The Bells' had an upstairs restaurant and in that upstairs restaurant, the Hemy work was surely displayed for a period. Displayed? More like dominated the grill room. How does David know this? He bought a postcard on e-Bay which proves it (image next). As David states 'the existence of this card changes the work's history' - yes indeed! Thank you David, for this most interesting new information. You can see an image of James Henderson in the 1894/95 team photograph below.
As you can read above, Mike Jordan is not impressed with the only image of that work I was able to find (but now see lower on the page). That image is next. I am sure that this print is not the best selling print of any gallery. But EasyArt (from which the next image came, but in early Nov. 2019 no longer - I searched for 'Hemy') had it available as they had (again no longer) other of Thomas Hemy's prints. Entitled simply 'Sunderland v Aston Villa'. Only on one other site that I could find was the soccer print available, & the related image was disappointing. But I correct that. Another art site, Thomas Ross Limited, does have the print. I mention them here for your interest.
Hopefully, it will be possible to get a better quality full image on site, one which permits the detail Mike Jordan refers to above, to be visible to the visitor. I cannot, as an example, really spot the goalkeeper (with a cap) in any of the images below. He maybe is in the image at top right here, third from the right & almost totally hidden.
Anyway, next are two versions of the Hemy soccer image (both slightly sharpened), i.e. the Sunderland v Aston Villa match of Jan. 2, 1895. It was a 4-4 draw incidentally! The one at the top is ex EasyArt. The second was from 'intothenet.org', but seems no longer to be available. It was, I believe, stated to be from the 'collection' of the The National Football Museum. Another puzzle - that word 'collection' - because we know where the original of the work is today, don't we. The actual work cannot possibly be in two places.
Next, again thanks to Paul Days, is a good image of the artwork.
Ian Horn wrote a poem about the Sunderland painting which I now learn was of the Sunderland team called, then and now, 'The team of all the talents'! Such poem used to be available via a link from this page but is no longer there any more. Sorry about that!
Now Mike Jordan was permitted to take some images of the Hemy work, & has now kindly provided them to me for inclusion in these pages. The painting dominates the reception area as you enter the 'Stadium of Light' in Sunderland. It is, however, behind protective glass & therefore most difficult to photograph with all of the reflections. None the less, the image at top left below does give a good idea of how the work dominates the marbled reception area. The shield at the top of the painting, Mike indicates, states the three years in which the Club won the championship. While the ball at the bottom of the picture gives an idea of scale as it is a full sized football. The names of the footballers and officials can also be seen along the bottom. A pair of detail images are at right showing the variable quality of the painting of the individual faces of the players & the crowd.
Mike, thank you so much!
Ray Bell, a long term Sunderland A.F.C. supporter, advised in Jan 2012 as follows. That he was told, many many years ago, that the artist had been a professional boxer & that in Hemy's paintings all of the players have a 'clenched fist' pose. As an artist himself, Ray adds that many artists do tend to have a similar feature in all of their paintings. And that it seems that the 'clenched fist' was featured also in Hemy's 'Harrow School Footer Field' painting available below. That is all most interesting. I was not aware that the artist had been a professional boxer but it may very well have been so. Paul Days, having read these words states that 'Hemy was never a boxer but wasn’t very good at painting hands so therefore he painted them all as best he could, with clenched fist.' I don't think that there is much doubt that Hemy was not particularly good at painting human anatomy, & not only hands.
And next an image of a card provided to the webmaster by a kind site visitor. The card clearly does not show the full width of the painting since the gentlemen in the stands, visible in the image immediately above, are entirely off image. But it did show generous amounts of sky. So with apologies to Thomas Hemy I show here the full width 'football' content of the card which strangely states that the work was painted in 1894.
Word has it that as a pre cursor to painting the colour image, Hemy also drew about 100 sketches of the subject. Some of them were taken into the Sunderland AFC Supporters shop about 10 to 15 years ago (written in 2012) & the rumour is that they were bought by the then chairman Bob Murray. Can anybody confirm that or otherwise add to the history?
In the paragraph above I referred to the image being of a 'card'. It is quite possible that that 'card' was a 1991 'Aston Villa' Club Christmas card. A copy of such a Christmas card, 8 1/2 x 6 inches in size, was sold via e-Bay in early Sep. 2007. The colorization did look to be the same. And the e-Bay item also referred to 1894.
And a little more data and a new name for the work! In Feb. 2005, an item was for sale on e-Bay - 4 pages from an 1898 edition of an English magazine called 'Harmsworth'. The article is entitled 'Making A Football', but one of the pages is a reproduction of what clearly is this Hemy work, with yet another name - "The Last Minute - Now or Never!" from the painting by T. M. Hemy. The page size, the vendor indicated, is 24 cm. by 16 cm. - about 9 1/2" by 6 1/2". Most interesting.
And it would seem that the work appeared also in Harper's Weekly in the 1930s. Entitled "Corner Kick", by Thos. M. Hemy, copyright by the British Art Publishers' Union, N.Y. It was an e-Bay item in Apl. 2006, now long since gone. The following image, from an e-Bay item in Nov. 2019, offered, indeed a 'Buy It Now' item, at U.S. $7.50, must clearly be the work referred to. A second partial image of the print is here.
On Nov. 12, 2008, an unusual related item was sold at Sotheby's in London. A hand coloured lithograph of the Hemy work, presented by the Durham Football Association to Mr. R. Wood Esq. on Nov. 7th 1934, mounted, framed & glazed, 67 by 99 cm., 26 1/2 by 39 in. Offered via an e-Bay live auction by Graham Budd Auctions Ltd., of London. The print sold for GBP 300, or approx. U.S. $445.80.
It would be interesting to know the names of all of the players & officials that appear in the Thomas Hemy painting - as listed under the actual displayed work. I say that particularly because the match depicted was played on Jan. 2, 1895. And in 1895, the Sunderland Club won the Football League Trophy, as they had also in both 1892 & 1893. Thanks to the magic of e-Bay, I can now show you the team photograph of that 1895 winning team. There surely will mostly be matching names.
The item in question is of the Sunderland team, i.e. the 1894-95 League Champions - a full page (approx 14" x 9") from 'Famous Footballers and Athletes', published around 1896. The image is very fine indeed, & every person in the image may well be identifiable. I say that rather than 'identified' because I searched for Tom Watson, the Club Manager referred to above. He is there, in the photograph, but stated to be the Secretary. I can see no 'Club Manager' identified however & the name listing seems to be out of kilter with the image (bottom row contains 5 persons but six names. The row above contains 9 persons but only 8 names). I should indicate that I have not sought permission to use this image on site, but trust that its inclusion here will not cause any concern to 'alwalkerbds' the vendor, whose e-Bay store is now long gone. The item sold for GBP 4.95.
I should note that the English Association Cup (F. A. Cup) was won that year by Aston Villa.
In 1990, the 'A.F.C. Supporters' Association' published a 70 page booklet, for the purpose of raising funds to finance the restoration of Thomas Hemy's work. It's cover is at left.
The booklet contains detail of the history of the Supporters' Association, of the football club itself, with articles, photos etc. The booklet must be scarce. A copy of it sold via e-Bay in May 2010, for GBP 18.31 or approx. U.S. $27.42.
At right is an ex e-Bay image of Ted Doig, depicted I do believe, in the team image above.
Before we change subjects, I learn that at about the time when Roker Park was demolished, in 1998, an auction was held of club artifacts considered to be unsuitable to move forward to the new stadium. Amongst the items so auctioned were some of the Roker Park seats. Thanks to David Sloan, an image next of some of those old seats, now gracing the back garden of a Seaham house.
Peter Jefferies has kindly provided the image below, of an 1892 painting by Jos. R. Curry. Peter indicates that this painting of the Sunderland 'Team Of All The Talents' is 3 years older than the Thomas Hemy painting which is shown above. He wonders whether this could this be the oldest football painting in the world.
Peter indicates that the name 'Team Of All The Talents' was given to the Sunderland team by William McGregor, the man who founded league football in the U.K. You can read about William McGregor here - that's him at left. McGregor believed that each & every Sunderland team member could have not been better picked for their respective positions.
The painting is believed to be the first that shows (in colour) the red & white stripes of the Sunderland team uniform. Peter further advises that all of the team members were born in Scotland, with the sole exception of the player shown in the top row extreme left - that player is John Porteous who was born in Newcastle. Shown wearing a cap is the famous Ted Doig - the prince of goalkeepers. The man in the suit? That is Ted Watson, the Sunderland team's first manager, who later managed the Liverpool team with great success.
Peter, thank you so much! Peter's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org should you have any questions. You can click the image below to see the painting in greater detail.
The above image, ex EasyArt, is entitled 'Harrow School Footer Field'. It seems to be of a soccer game at the Harrow, England, public school (means very much a private school!). Next another modest image of the work.
On Feb. 4, 2008 a giant (1932 x 1528 pixels) image of 'Harrow School Footer Field' was posted on Wikipedia. Described as being a watercolour 'after a design of Walter Cox' (aquarelle d'après un dessin de Walter Cox). We thank 'Ludo29' who posted it. I show below a reduced size version of most of the Wikipedia image. What is a puzzle perhaps is that the image seems to be only of the left portion of the work, as you can see by comparing it with the modest images above. I am puzzled also re the reference to Walter Cox.
I will add here, in due course, whatever I later find about the above works. If YOU have any new data about them, I would welcome your contacting me.
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