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Gilbert Spencer’s love of football stemmed from early childhood. ‘Not pretending to join my elders in their passionate interest in literature’, he recalled in Memoirs of a Painter (1974), ‘I took to football on Cookham Moor’. Spencer paid tribute to this childhood experience in Football on Cookham Moor, 1935 (the Britten Pears Foundation, see bottom right), which, along with The Goal, is the only known example of a football subject within Spencer’s repertoire. Primarily a painter of portraits and landscape, Spencer’s reputation, like that of his brother Stanley, rests equally on his ability to capture the incidents of everyday life in rural England. After seeing Football on Cookham Moor hanging in the house of author, George Behrend, in 1942, Stanley wrote to Gilbert:

“Speaking of each other as worlds...it seems to me that as your Sermon on the Mount is a good example of one of your hemispheres, so this [Football on] Cookham Moor is a very fine if not the grandest example of your other hemisphere’. (Tate archive)

In The Goal, Spencer has captured the intensity of game, successfully communicating the drama and emotion around the scoring of a goal. The close perspective engages the viewer directly in the action, while the use of predominantly bold, dark colours intensifies the sense of vigour in the scene. In line with his other pictures from this period, Spencer renders the figures with a degree of distortion, sacrificing individual specificity for a more powerful sense of physicality.

From the distinctive team liveries, it appears likely that the match recorded is the League Two Division tie between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Swansea City, 13th December, 1930, in which the hosts ran out 3-1 winners. Assuming this is the winning goal, the scoring figure might be identified as Wolves striker, Billy Hartill, who gave his side the lead late into the game. Nicknamed ‘Artillery Billy’, Hartill ended the season with 30 goals in 39 appearances, and fired Wolves to the Championship the following year.

Artist Barnett Freedman: The Darts Champion
Barnett Freedman
The Darts Champion  For sale
£800
Artist John Luke: Batsman
John Luke
Batsman  For sale
£765
Artist Karl Hagedorn: Design: a self-portrait rowing
Karl Hagedorn
Design: a self-portrait rowing  For sale
£975
Artist William Nicholson: Coursing (January.), circa 1898
William Nicholson
Coursing (January.), circa 1898  For sale
£295
Artist Jock Kinneir: The original design for These men use Shell, riders to hounds, you can be sure of Shell, 1938
Jock Kinneir
The original design for These men...  For sale
£3500
Artist Charles Wesley Gilhousen: The Descent of Venus, circa 1917
Charles Wesley Gilhousen
The Descent of Venus, circa 1917  For sale
£1500
Artist Frederick Austin: Boats at Chiswick Mall
Frederick Austin
Boats at Chiswick Mall  For sale
£1350
Artist William Nicholson: Coursing (February.), circa 1898
William Nicholson
Coursing (February.), circa 1898  For sale
£300
Artist Barbara Constance Freeman: Skiers sheltering, circa 1930
Barbara Constance Freeman
Skiers sheltering, circa 1930  For sale
£1800
Artist Alfred John Nunney: Back to School, late 1930s
Alfred John Nunney
Back to School, late 1930's  For sale
£1075
Artist Charles Cundall: Study for Hastings Cricket Ground, Festival Week, Hastings, c.1952
Charles Cundall
Study for Hastings Cricket Ground  For sale
£1800
Artist Kenneth Rowntree: Ballymoss winning the George V Stakes
Kenneth Rowntree
Ballymoss winning the George V Stakes  For sale
£900
Artist Pierre Abadie-Landel: Les Joies du Poilu [The Pleasures of the Poilu], set of 6
Pierre Abadie-Landel
Les Joies du Poilu [The Pleasures of...  For sale
£5230
Artist John Hassall: The original design for Tom Tom the Pipers Son .... , 1900
John Hassall
The original design for Tom Tom the...  For sale
£1900
Artist Charlotte Ancelin: A set of three prints - Longchamps and other races, circa 1910
Charlotte Ancelin
A set of three prints - Longchamps...  For sale
£830
Artist Fyffe Christie: Roll Up!, circa 1950
Fyffe Christie
Roll Up!, circa 1950  For sale
£2570
Artist Willi Soukop: Physical Education, Reading & Discussion and Woodwork & Metalwork
Willi Soukop
Physical Education  For sale
£7500
Artist James Woodford: Nereid - fountain group, circa 1947
James Woodford
Nereid - fountain group, circa 1947  For sale
£4620
Artist Robert Austin: The Fisherman (1927)
Robert Austin
The Fisherman (1927)  For sale
£390
Artist John McKenzie: Lightsome Interlude, 1940s
John McKenzie
Lightsome Interlude, 1940's  For sale
£6600
Artist Gilbert Ledward: Boxing, Wrestling, Hunting, Swimming
Gilbert Ledward
Boxing, Wrestling, Hunting, Swimming  Reserved 
Artist Douglas Percy Bliss: Satires of Highland Gatherings; Heavy Events at the Strathbannock Highland Gathering, circa 1935
Douglas Percy Bliss
Satires of Highland Gatherings;...  Reserved 
Artist Evelyn Dunbar: Portrait of Flying Officer Roger Folley, RAFVR [HMO 280]
Evelyn Dunbar
Portrait of Flying Officer Roger Folley  Reserved 
Artist Evelyn Dunbar: The Children’s Shop: mice (recto), birds (verso) [HMO 749]
Evelyn Dunbar
The Children’s Shop: mice (recto)  Reserved 
Artist Douglas Percy Bliss: A Mighty Hunter before the Lord
Douglas Percy Bliss
A Mighty Hunter before the Lord  For sale 
Artist David Evans: Bullfight
David Evans
Bullfight  Privately held 
Artist Robert Austin: The Fisherman (1927)
Robert Austin
The Fisherman (1927)  Privately held 
Artist Robert Baker: The Gym Lesson
Robert Baker
The Gym Lesson  For sale 
Artist Cosmo Clark: English Country Fair, 1933
Cosmo Clark
English Country Fair, 1933  For sale 
Artist David Evans: At the Plaza
David Evans
At the Plaza  For sale 
Artist David Evans: Mecca Dancing
David Evans
Mecca Dancing  For sale 
Artist Robert Baker: Table tennis; the common room
Robert Baker
Table tennis; the common room  Sold 
Artist Frank Brangwyn: The Prize Fight (or The Boxers), circa 1919
Frank Brangwyn
The Prize Fight (or The Boxers)  Sold 
Artist Eric Gill: Skaters, 1926
Eric Gill
Skaters, 1926  Sold 
Artist Gilbert Spencer: The Goal, c. 1930
Gilbert Spencer
The Goal, c. 1930  Sold 
Artist Douglas Percy Bliss: The Hunt
Douglas Percy Bliss
The Hunt  Sold 
Artist Percy Shakespeare: Morning Exercise, Self Portrait
Percy Shakespeare
Morning Exercise, Self Portrait  Sold 
Artist Rudolph Sauter: Skiing, 1947
Rudolph Sauter
Skiing, 1947  Sold 
Artist Ethel Leontine Gabain: London Schoolgirls at Finnemore Wood - Camp Children in Wartime, 1940
Ethel Leontine Gabain
London Schoolgirls at Finnemore Wood...  Sold 
Artist Frederick Austin: Book Jacket Design for Walking Tours, 1926
Frederick Austin
Book Jacket Design for 'Walking Tours'  Sold 
Artist Stanley Lewis: The Knock-Out Blow, late 1940s
Stanley Lewis
The Knock-Out Blow, late 1940's  Sold 
Artist Alfred John Nunney: Ice Hockey
Alfred John Nunney
Ice Hockey  Sold 
Artist Alfred John Nunney: Golfing break, circa 1935
Alfred John Nunney
Golfing break, circa 1935  Sold 
Artist William Nicholson: An Almanac of Sports, c. 1900
William Nicholson
An Almanac of Sports, c. 1900  Sold 
Artist Barbara Jones: Louis Bleriot flying the English Channel, 1909
Barbara Jones
Louis Bleriot flying the English...  Sold 
Artist Mary Adshead: Clown training a circus monkey and two horses, c. 1940
Mary Adshead
Clown training a circus monkey and...  Sold 
Artist Stanley Bradshaw: Westland Wapiti Flying Squadron 601, 1931
Stanley Bradshaw
Westland Wapiti Flying Squadron 601  Sold 
Artist William Roberts: The boxing match, circa 1919-1925
William Roberts
The boxing match, circa 1919-1925  Sold 
Artist Edward Irvine Halliday: The Study for “Viscount Leslie, Lady Evelyn and Lady Jean Leslie, Gastons”, c. 1947
Edward Irvine Halliday
The Study for “Viscount Leslie  Sold 
Artist English School: Portrait of Mollie Phillips the Olympic Ice Skater, at The London Ice Club, early 1930s
English School
Portrait of Mollie Phillips the...  Sold 
Artist Kenneth Rowntree: Sasha skiing in Austria, 1955
Kenneth Rowntree
Sasha skiing in Austria, 1955  Sold 
Artist Norman Neasom: Canal at Hanbury, 1976
Norman Neasom
Canal at Hanbury, 1976  Sold 
Artist Steven Spurrier: Hare Coursing, design for a frieze, c. 1910
Steven Spurrier
Hare Coursing  Sold 
Artist Raymond Sheppard: Borrowed gun for Liliput illustration The Gun, 1950s, (S|R 57)
Raymond Sheppard
Borrowed gun for Liliput...  Sold 
Artist Raymond Sheppard: Circus circa 1940
Raymond Sheppard
Circus circa 1940  Sold 
Artist R C Dafforn: Ellimans for Sprains and Bruises, April 1933
R C Dafforn
Elliman's for Sprains and Bruises  Sold 
Artist Kathleen Guthrie: Cyclists framed, circa 1948
Kathleen Guthrie
Cyclists framed, circa 1948  Sold 
Artist Raymond Sheppard: The Great Flight, 1952
Raymond Sheppard
The Great Flight, 1952  Sold 
Artist James Stroudley: Study for The Olympics, circa 1928
James Stroudley
Study for The Olympics, circa 1928  Sold 
Artist Reginald Otto Bell: Airship: design for a stained-glass window executed by Clayton and Bell for Canterbury Hospital, 1937
Reginald Otto Bell
"Airship": design for a...  Sold 
Artist Robert Austin: Corettos Circus, circa 1920
Robert Austin
Coretto's Circus, circa 1920  Sold 
Artist James Stroudley: Studies for Olympic Games. Athlete descending a ladder, circa 1930
James Stroudley
Studies for Olympic Games. Athlete...  Sold 
Artist Dudley Holland: Speedway, the First Corner, late 1930s
Dudley Holland
Speedway, the First Corner, late 1930s  Sold 
Artist Eric Fraser: Tennis and Golf, circa 1922
Eric Fraser
Tennis and Golf, circa 1922  Sold 
Artist Eric Fraser: Hikers, circa 1922
Eric Fraser
Hikers, circa 1922  Sold 
Artist Richard Carline: Gilbert and Janet pairing up for tennis
Richard Carline
Gilbert and Janet pairing up for tennis  Sold