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Under Red And White Skies - Showcasing The Art Of Sunderland

The beautiful game. An emotive painting of a footballing scene, player or ground can transport you to a place deep within the soul. We've put together a selection of contemporary artists who have their own unique take on Sunderland AFC and its people, history and home.

Under Red, White & Black Skies

All Sunderland fans will be familiar with the artwork displayed at the top of the page. It is, reputedly, the oldest painting depicting a game of 'soccer' in the world. The piece by Thomas Hemy dates to 1895 and is now displayed in the main reception area of the Stadium of Light. You can read a full account of its quite amazing history here on the web pages of Peter Searle (by the way, I defy you not to be able to spend an entire bank holiday browsing Peter's records of Sunderland history).

Indeed, Hemy's oil-work sufficiently impressed a FIFA delegation, who during 2010 took in Sunderland when they were perusing this nation's ill-fated bid to host the 2018 World Cup. One of the chief delegates was to remark that the painting is "a clear impression of what football has meant since those early days as part of England's history".

And that, of course, is the magic of ‘art'. That lingering sensation when a depiction of something stirs the soul. The art of football is quite simply that - when someone adept with a brush or a pencil can transport you to a terrace, a game or a way of life.

Here's the first of an occasional series showcasing some of the finest works associated with our football club. First up, a selection of the best contemporary works featuring Sunderland AFC. Under Red, White and Black Skies.


Chris Cummings

Chris is a Sunderland fan and a Sunderland man - and you can tell. His work has a beautiful simplicity to it which captures his chosen moments in time with a measure which draws in your eye.

I return to the third piece in the selection below every time. It has a resonance for every young lad or lass who has kicked a ball about a field - when the rain is coming and your mam wants you in for dinner, but you still have to score that goal. And, the final painting needs no narrative for those of us who spent our Sunderland lives on the Fulwell End and still hanker for it.

For those familiar with Chris' work, here's a selection of some of the latest pieces he was kind enough to allow us a preview of. Check out his full portfolio here.


Paine Proffitt

Many of us are familiar with Paine's work after his art featured on the cover of a series of Sunderland matchday programmes a year or two ago. Inspired by vintage football posters from the 1920s and 1930s, the American-born, Stoke-based artist has gained huge renown for his depictions which encapsulate the culture and imagery of people and their great love for the beautiful game. His work is quite simply visually stunning.

There's something compelling about the evocation of football's heritage. Paine's nod to the working class folks who built our club root his work to the brutal beauty of the golden ages of Sunderland and the glorious men who entertained gone generations in front of the Leitch lattic-worked Roker Park.

A Port Vale fan, Paine's work is reputedly owned by such luminaries as Robbie Williams and Bradley Wiggins. Check out his website here.


John Coatsworth

John was born and raised in Byker and is a Freeman of the City of Newcastle, but he's been a popular local artist for many years and has a vast collection of works featuring town and city-scapes and the peoples who live, toil and play within them. He has worked at the glorious Hancock museum and the Newcastle Evening Chronicle doing visuals, illustrations and cartoons. His unique style has adorned public spaces, buildings and homes alike for many a year.

A Sunderland fan who has worked with John Coatsworth offered this perspective on his work:

John's art was originally quite traditional but around 1996 he developed a different 'bendy' style which proved to be very popular. He contributed to many annual Christmas exhibitions at the Gallery, Gateshead - which I coordinated - as well as the Shipley Art Gallery. John had an exhibition at the Gallery in 1998 where all of his prints sold out and I had to get him to bring in extra prints on a daily basis as they were in such demand - I was still being asked for them months later.

His images of local scenes combine nostalgia and humour and they have a broad appeal. One year he brought some Christmas cards featuring snowmen in NUFC black and white scarves, and in the interests of equality I asked him if he had any with red and white scarves - of course he did!

He also brought in a print of 'Cats Cradle' [below] which I immediately bought for my dad, a lifelong SAFC supporter and he cherished it. It has since passed to my uncle, his son, and no doubt to his son too - much like the tradition of supporting Sunderland is handed down the generations, and linking football and art.

You can browse some of John's extensive catalogue of works here.


Finally, do you recognise yourself in the piece below? Where you used to stand or sit?

James Muddiman is 'painting the 92' and he's not far off. If you're a fan of football stadiums and old grounds check out his website and tick off the ones you've been to or remember.


All works are featured with the artist's permission. If you have any particular artist or pieces of interest which represent Sunderland that we can feature in future articles, leave us a comment below.