Artist's portraits of England squad celebrate diversity of nation

Harry Kane with his portrait by Matthew Small

Harry Kane with his portrait by Matthew Small - Credit: Matthew Small

Artworks by a Camden-based painter of the England football squad have been unveiled, celebrating the modern-day diversity of the nation. 

Matthew Small, 46, from Gospel Oak, was commissioned by the Football Association to create the portraits of the players which were hung at St George’s Park training centre during Euro 2020. 

The works are installed digitally at The ARX in Knightsbridge until November 6 and they will be on public display together for the first time at the Pitzhanger Manor & Gallery in Ealing from November 6-14.

The paintings were commissioned with the aim to create a sense of familiarity when players were based at St George’s for fixtures played at home. 

“The FA was looking at ways to create an atmosphere in their training ground environment where the players feel like they are not in a sort of detached, sterile environment,” Matthew said.

Gospel Oak artist Matthew Small

Gospel Oak artist Matthew Small - Credit: Matthew Small

Bukayo Saka

Bukayo Saka - Credit: Matthew Small

“I do not do pictures of celebrities. I felt I needed to look beyond the fact that these were footballers and really look at what they represent as a group. 

“Their position as individuals and group has changed in the past few months, they are reflective of the mood of the country,” Matthew added. 

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Collectively entitled This is England, the 26 portraits go beyond celebrating sporting achievement to reflect the diversity of what it means to be English today. 

“That was important for me, that they [the players] have become a symbol of a country that is evolving and is progressing and is having to acknowledge what has become a multicultural nation.  

“The team is a symbol of that, the players come from different backgrounds and classes. That is something wonderful to celebrate,” Matthew said.

Gareth Southgate

Gareth Southgate - Credit: Matthew Small

The artist, who graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2000, is known for making portraits of young and marginalised people.  

“The topic of my artwork is depicting the world around me. Camden and Kentish Town are a very diverse community. And I wanted to reflect that in my work,” he said. 

“I don’t feel there is enough positive representation of young people in the art world.” 

The artist uses a wide range of materials for his work, including discarded items and scrap metal.  

Matthew hopes his portraits will be kept as public display and act as inspiration for younger generations.

Raheem Sterling

Raheem Sterling - Credit: Matthew Small

Harry Maguire

Harry Maguire - Credit: Matthew Small