As the 1953 ‘Football and the Fine Arts’ exhibition was the starting point for the Art of Football project, I have been going through our photocopies of the price list for exhibited works and the exhibition catalogue to see if I can find any of those listed for sale now.
A few months ago I came across the name K. Lek in the exhibition catalogue. I didn’t have any prior knowledge of this artist (shame on me!) – but as there is an image of the work in the catalogue, and the name might be uncommon enough to find online, I thought I would give this a go. The artwork in the exhibition catalogue is entitled ‘Off to the Match’, and is a wood engraving showing various male football fans.
I didn’t have to dig very deep to find Lek’s first name! A Google search for ‘K Lek artist’ immediately brought up results for Karel Lek. There was more to read about Karel’s history than I was perhaps expecting. Born in Antwerp in 1929, Karel came to live in North Wales after fleeing Belgium with his parents during the Second World War. Karel is an active artist, still producing work in North Wales. This meant that I could try to contact him and find out more about his life, his art, and if he knew the whereabouts of ‘Off to the Match’.
As I was researching online, I found another football related artwork by Karel listed in a digitised catalogue for the Royal Cambrian Academy’s (RCA) 73rd annual exhibition, 1955. This was the same year he became a member of the RCA. ‘Football Spectators in Rain’ is a watercolour, and at the time it was priced at £16 and 16 shillings. So now there were two to try and track down!
The first thing I did was to contact a few galleries which represent Karel Lek, to explain about the Art of Football project, and to ask if they would kindly pass my contact details on so I could ask Karel about the two football artworks and where they may have ended up. The Martin Tinney Gallery Ltd. replied to say they were often in contact with Karel, and despite it being a bit of a long shot, they would ask him. To my absolute delight, I received an email the next day to say that Karel was still in possession of the pieces!
The original watercolour and a proof of the wood engraving have now been purchased for the National Football Museum’s art collection. If that wasn’t exciting enough, Karel kindly agreed to meet with me, so next week I am travelling to Anglesey with two colleagues so we can interview him and collect the artworks from the Oriel Tegfryn Gallery (part of the Martin Tinney group), who have been generous enough to help organise and host us on the day. It will be fantastic to meet the creator of the two characterful pieces, and find out more about him and the inspiration behind his work – especially in such beautiful surroundings. This is yet another reason why the Heritage Lottery Fund Collecting Cultures scheme is so fantastic, as the grant money is enables us to find out a lot more about the artworks and the artist first hand. This will allow us to document, interpret and display the pieces at the museum much more effectively, for everyone to enjoy.
Stay tuned for part II!