I'm always surprised and pleased to discover artworks related to rugby. Last week, I spotted this fine "Retrato de un jugador de rugby" by Mexican artist Angel Zarraga (1886-1946), painted in Paris c1925.
Should I mention... this oil on canvas isn't mine... it was auctionned two years ago by Christie's in New York for a mere $157,000... (details here)
Angel Zarraga (portrait below - short bio here) left Mexico to travel around Europe aged 18, settled in Paris in 1911 - the center of the then art world - where along with Braque, Utrillo, Gris and Picasso, he was one of the founders of the School of Paris and became an important art figure and enjoyed commercial and critical success.
As Christie's explains "The artist's earliest experiments with a cubist language reveal his understanding of color and space but more importantly place him within the modernist's vanguard. Zárraga abandoned Cubism by the start of the 1920s for an expressionist language that is uniquely his but shares its roots with the works of Cézanne.
Retrato de un jugador de rugby, circa 1925, dates to a period in the artist's life when he became increasingly interested in athletic depictions--especially of football (soccer and rugby) players. Some of his most notable paintings within this theme are of players in action done in a cubist manner. However, his most iconic works on the sport are frontal portraits of female and male players which are captivating and lyrical character studies. This portrait focuses on a handsome young man--almost too young to play such a rough sport. The bold red stripes of his shirt contrast dramatically against the soft colors of the playing field and anchors him firmly to the ground. He epitomizes the eloquence of the sport--the almond-shaped ball is tenderly held up like a sacred object and he remains forever the image of the game."
I have no idea who could be that youg rugby player, but it's interesting to notice that Parisian rugby clubs had always welcomed Latin or South American athletes since the beginning of our championship back in 1892 (another story... another day... some hints here in that former story about Brazilian Paranhos at Stade Français)
BTW Google Images provides with other Zarraga's paintings, including this related work with football players (and Basque berets...)