An LS Lowry painting depicting a crowd travelling to a rugby game is to go on show for the first time since 1966.
The painting, titled Going To The Match, is being sold by auction house Sotheby’s, who have valued it between £2 million and £3 million ahead of its sale.
The 1928 work shows crowds heading to a rugby league match against an industrial backdrop and is thought to possibly depict fans of Salford Red Devils, Lowry’s local team.
The painting has been in the same family collection since 1972 and has only ever been exhibited once before in 1966, according to Sotheby’s.
Sotheby’s head of modern and post-war British art Frances Christie told the PA news agency: “From our research, it looks to be the earliest picture of a sporting subject that he did.
“It’s crowds that really, really fascinated Lowry throughout his whole life.
“In all of his subjects, it’s always the crowd within the setting that he gets drawn to.”
She added that the painting “shines a real light on the social history of the time and how important rugby was then for those northern communities”.
“This was painted nearly 100 years ago but we all still go to a match just like those people in the picture,” she said.
“For a contemporary audience, it’s still really authentic.
“I think particularly when we haven’t been able to go to a match properly over the last year, I sort of think this image should resonate with any sort of sport fan, regardless of what sport it is.”
Interest in the Lowry painting is likely to come from around the world, Ms Christie added.
“Traditionally, Lowry is one of Britain’s most popular artists,” she said.
“But increasingly there are collectors around the world and I think collectors around the world appreciate how authentic these images are because although they are painted more than one hundred years ago, Lowry portrays subjects that we all still do today.”
Going To The Match will be displayed in London from June 22 to 29 ahead of its sale and will also be shown in New York, Edinburgh and Dublin.