Cricketers painting sale to US blocked because of its ‘cultural importance’

It argued that its subject matter made the work important to British art and culture, and that it should therefore remain in the UK, but the owner trying to sell the work has claimed that it has much more cultural significance for Americans.

Documents submitted to the committee to push for the sale argued that The Cricketers “is by an American artist, depicts American subjects, and was commissioned by an American for display in Pennsylvania”.

The submission claimed that its “significance to the history and national life of the UK” is confined to the fact it was painted in Britain, and depicts “equipment associated with cricket”.

The importance of this gear was downplayed, with the submission arguing that the cricket bats in the painting are merely artistic “props” that were meant to show off the “cosmopolitan traits of American boys” at school in the UK, rather than a genuine sporting scenario.

Major roles in US society

It was further argued that the young men in the painting went on to play major roles in US society rather than British, with one, Arthur Middleton, even signing the Declaration of Independence.

However, the reviewing committee maintained that the sporting connection was significant, finding that “even if the cricket equipment was included as props, rather than as a painting of a game, their presence was intentional as symbolic of status and British nationalism”.

It was also deemed to be important as a record of Anglo-American relations before the revolution and a temporary bar has been placed on the painting, but the sale will be pushed through in April 2023 if no alternative buyer in the UK can be found.

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