From The Vaults

04 July 2022
More than a game: Rugby inspired Art by Lucia Hardy

Power and beauty. Runs swift as lightning. Thunder in the clash of bodies and colours. As an artist and a rugby lover, it's not too hard to see how Rugby has inspired artists since it first became known and loved.

My name's Lucia Hardy, I paint in acrylics with an expressive and semi-abstract style, and I'm also a big sports lover and a minis coach at Upminster RFC. I'd never really considered making sports art before, but when my club put out a call for fundraising ideas after a long and painful pandemic it got me thinking. Could I make some art about rugby?

My normal subjects are wildlife, birds and wild British landscapes, but I've always loved dynamics, the physical strength and beauty of nature, and the power of the elements. The themes I'm interested in are nature's ability to thrive in adversity, the character, poetry and grit that makes up life's survivor spirit. I quickly realised Rugby was buzzing with my type of inspiration and I leapt straight in. For inspiration, I made a trip to Twickenham to watch England play, and afterwards took a tour of the stadium and fantastic museum. I came away with so many ideas and a mission to discover more about art created in tribute to this beautiful game.

The work of artist Gerald Laing, whose epic bronze sculptures grace the Twickenham grounds, is spectacular. His players are metal titans, with thighs like oak trees and faces set in immortal focus. Despite their strength they hold the ball with the lightest touch and move in subtle, instinctive shapes. They are both rugby gods and everyman heroes, frozen forever in the heat of battle.

William Barnes Wollen was an artist known for both his paintings of sporting scenes and historical battles. In perhaps the most famous rugby artwork, 'The Rugby Match' he recreates an epic game in panorama, putting us on the pitch as the Lancashire fullback, almost hearing the shouts and feeling the alarm as Yorkshire break.

Echoes of war become real in the pain and pride of 'Forever England' hanging near the Royal Box at Twickenham. The artwork by Shane Record is a squad picture but also a roll call. This was the last England team before the outbreak of WWI, their gaze is firm and resolute. The ones who did not survive have greyed out roses on their chests - marked but present, each with an abiding place in that team.

Painting these works and finding out about rugby art past and present has been an incredible and inspiring experience. Like other artists before me, I'm fascinated with the feeling that rugby is bigger than the sum of its parts. All of the great rugby art I've seen celebrates anyone who ever pulled on a jersey and came to the game with passion and a bit between their teeth. Whether famous across the country, or just infamous in the clubhouse, this art, this game, is about you.

About the Author - Lucia Hardy is an artist and a minis rugby coach at Upminster RFC.

Lucia has painted a series of rugby art for sale with all proceeds going to raise money for the club. Find out more at or see @luciahardyart on Instagram and Facebook.