National horseracing museum collection

The Victorians at Play

The Victorians at Play

Sport in Britain became increasingly popular and widespread in the later nineteenth century. Artists of the period capture a wide variety of new and fashionable sports. Urban garden games such as archery, badminton, croquet and lawn tennis were all popular with the newly affluent middle classes, who now had the time for leisure activities.   

Sporting women become an increasingly prominent feature in the art of the period. Artists also turn their attention towards the spectator, capturing the thrill and excitement of watching large-scale sporting events.

Other sports including cycling and pedestrianism (competitive walking) also rose to prominence as spectator sports. Team games such as rugby and football were professionalised as new grounds and stadiums sprang up in many towns across the country. Due to the preferences of the middle classes, however, art patronage of the period rarely extends to the depiction of these sporting subjects.

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