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William Roberts - Goal

William Roberts


Oil on canvas: 48(h) x 60(w) in / 121.9(h) x 152.4(w) cm
Signed lower right: William / Roberts; signed and inscribed on the artist’s label attached to the frame: William Roberts / 14 St Marks Crescent / NW1

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BX 158



1895 - London - 1980




Signed lower right: William / Roberts; signed and inscribed on the artist’s label attached to the frame: William Roberts / 14 St Marks Crescent / NW1

Oil on canvas: 48 x 60 in / 121.9 x 152.4 cm

Frame size: 54 ⅝ x 66 ⅝ in / 138.7 x 169.2 cm

In its original painted and gilded gessoed frame


Painted circa 1966-68



George Lascelles, 7th Earl of Harewood, acquired in 1968 from the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition

Harewood House Trust, Harewood, Leeds



London, Royal Academy of Arts, Summer Exhibition, 4th May-4th August 1968 no.416

Newcastle upon Tyne, University of Newcastle, Hatton Gallery, William Roberts (1895-1980), 20th March–29th May 2004, no.63: the exhibition travelled to Sheffield, Graves Art Gallery, 12th June-4th September 2004

Chichester, Pallant House Gallery, William Roberts: England at Play, 20th January-18th March 2007, not numbered



William Roberts, Paintings and Drawings by William Roberts RA, William Clowes & Sons, London, 1976, pl.17

Andrew Heard, William Roberts (1895-1980), exh. cat., University of Newcastle, Hatton Gallery, 2004, pp.113, 146, no.63, illus. p.112

Simon Martin, ‘William Roberts: England at Play’, Pallant House Gallery Magazine, no.10, January-March 2007, p.18, illus. in colour on the cover and p.7



William Roberts’ monumental masterpiece, Goal, purchased directly from the Royal Academy exhibition of 1968 by George Lascelles, 7th Earl of Harewood, was the centrepiece of Pallant House Gallery’s recent retrospective, William Roberts: England at Play. A complex network of goalposts, pitch markings and flamboyantly striped kit, Goal is a tour de force of Roberts’ representation of Modern British life, playfully capturing the dynamism and camaraderie of weekend football, the everyday drama of the beautiful game documented by box brownie wielding photographers. Roberts chronicled many different sporting activities during the course of his career, including rowing (The lake, 1964, Tate), cycling (Les routiers, Ulster Museum) and horse racing (Cantering to the post, 1949, Tate), but this is his first painting of football, most likely produced during the national euphoria that followed England’s triumph in the 1966 World Cup.


Roberts often drew inspiration from the environs of his London home at 14 St Mark’s Crescent, which backs on to the canal near Regent’s Park, his daily routine including a walk across Primrose Hill and beyond, making studies of details that caught his interest and working them up in the studio. The profusion of goalposts and conceivably hedge bounding the horizon in the present work, suggests the specific subject is amateur football in Regent’s Park, its masterful design a series of skilful contrasts in line and colour. The strong vertical goal posts and upright figures are ingeniously opposed by the diagonals of the footballers’ limbs and pitch lines, which echo the foreshortened goal/frame in the foreground.




William Roberts, The Common Market, 1963                        William Roberts, The Lake, 1964

Oil on canvas: 168 x 214 cm                                            Oil on canvas: 190.5 x 129.5 cm

Harris Museum & Art Gallery                                          Tate




1895 - London - 1980


Born in Hackney on the 5th June 1895, William Roberts was apprenticed to the poster designing and advertising firm of Sir Joseph Causton Ltd in 1909, while attending evening classes at St Martin’s School of Art, London. In 1910, Roberts won a London County Council Scholarship in drawing to the Slade School of Art and remained there for the next three years becoming friends with fellow students David Bomberg and Jacob Kramer (other Slade contemporaries included CW Nevinson, Mark Gertler, Stanley Spencer and Paul Nash). Following his studies, he travelled to Italy and France in 1913 before briefly joining Roger Fry’s Omega Workshops. In 1914, Roberts met Wyndham Lewis who borrowed two of his pictures to hang at the Rebel Art Centre and convinced him to join their rival establishment. Roberts became part of Lewis’s circle, which included Edward Wadsworth, Frederick Etchells and Cuthbert Hamilton, joining them for meetings and dinners (later recalled by Roberts in his painting The Vorticists at the Restaurant de la Tour Eiffel: Spring 1915 (1961-2, Tate, London). He was one of a list of signatories to the Vorticist Manifesto in the first issue of Blast, published in June 1914 and exhibited at the Vorticist exhibitions of 1915 in London and 1917 in New York.


On the 4th March 1916, Roberts joined the Royal Field Artillery as a gunner and went to France in July. He returned to England in April 1918 as an Official War Artist, having painted The First German Gas Attack at Ypres (1918, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa) for the Canadian War Records Office. He was joined in Percy Street by Sarah Kramer, the sister of Ukrainian-born artist Jacob Kramer (1892-1962). Their only son John was born in 1919 and Roberts demobilised the same year. In 1920, Roberts met T.E. Lawrence and started making drawings for his edition of the Seven Pillars of Wisdom (published 1926). He held his first one-man exhibition at the Chenil Galleries in 1923. Roberts became a visiting teacher at the Central School of Art, London in 1925 and continued there until the outbreak of war, when the family moved to Oxford. During the war he taught one day a week at the Oxford Technical School. In 1946 Roberts moved back to London, near Regents Park, and continued teaching at the Central School of Art. From 1948, he began to exhibit at the Royal Academy and continued to do so every year until his death. In 1956-8 he published The Vortex Pamphlets in response to the Wyndham Lewis exhibition at the Tate Gallery. In 1958 he was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy, and a Royal Academician in 1966


Other Works By
William Roberts:

William Roberts - The drinking fountain