Illustration © The Estate of John David Roberts. Reproduced with the permission of the William Roberts Society. Catalogue information based on the catalogue raisonné by David Cleall. For this and full details of the exhibitions cited, see the links below.


Boxers, 1914
Pencil, pen and ink, and collage, 60.5 cm x 53.5 cm

The collage element of this work consists of a printed notice reading 'KID LEWIS v. JIM BERRY AT THE PREMIERLAND'. Boxing records identify two contests between these boxers, on 22 December 1912 and on 14 March 1914, and it is the latter date that tallies with the abstract style of the drawing. In Some Early Abstract and Cubist Work (1957), Roberts wrote, 'I became an abstract painter through the influence of the French Cubists . . . An additional stimulant to my interest in abstract art was the example of David Bomberg a friend and fellow pupil at the Slade School who had begun to produce some fine cubist compositions.' 'Kid' Lewis (aka the Aldgate Sphinx) was the British and European featherweight champion in March 1914 and was known to Bomberg through Bomberg's brother Mo, himself a boxer. Roberts was particularly close friends with Bomberg – a fellow East Ender – in 1914, and the fight between Lewis and Berry, taking place in the Whitechapel venue Premierland, would have been a big attraction for both artists.
For more information on this picture, click here.
PROVENANCE: Acquired by St John Hutchinson c.1915 > ? (by descent) > Sotheby's 10 May 2012 (£229,250)
EXHIBITION HISTORY: New English Art Club 1914, London Group 1915. Cf. Boxers 1919, Interval before Round Ten 1919 –20, Novices c.1921, Outclassed 1925, The Boxing Match c.1925–7

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