As part of Bath Rugby's 150th anniversary celebrations, an avid Bath Rugby supporter has been commissioned by the Club to produce ten full-scale player portraits which have gone on display at SouthGate shopping centre in Bath.
Matthew Withey, 20, has just completed his first year studying BA (Hons) Fine Art at Bath Spa University and is a keen rugby player. When the Club approached the University to find an artist he jumped at the chance to tackle the commission.
The impressive paintings were unveiled at an event yesterday attended by Bath number eight and crowd favourite Leroy Houston (who was particularly delighted by Withey's painting of him) and the artwork will now have pride of place in SouthGate's carpark where thousands of shoppers pass through every week.
Withey, who is Bath born and bred and currently lives at Beechen Cliff School, created the ten portraits using bold colours in acrylic paints, and designed them to look clean and simple up-close, and lifelike from a distance.
Coming from a rugby background - his father Steve Withey and his uncle Kevin Withey are well-known for rugby in Bath - and being a devoted fan helped him when it came to painting the individual facial features of the players.
He also used photographs of the team in action on the rugby pitch to help him complete the portraits. The artwork took him five months to create, with the largest portrait measuring two metres by two metres.
Withey said: "As a boy I aspired to play for Bath Rugby following in my uncle and father's footsteps, so I am very proud to be involved with the Club through my artwork. It's an amazing feeling knowing that my paintings will be seen by so many people visiting SouthGate.
"Sport and art have always been my strengths, and that's why I focussed on them at school and why this commission was absolutely perfect for me. I wanted to create a strong impact with my paintings so I chose vibrant colours to draw focus on the club colours and players, and I think they work well.
"My ambition is to be an art teacher and the Fine Art course at Bath Spa University has given me the confidence to make this a reality, and of course I'd love to do a bit of rugby coaching on the side!"
The BA (Hons) Fine Art course at Bath Spa University is taught by internationally recognised tutors and is a studio-based course covering media, painting and sculpture.
The paintings are mounted on the walls of the SouthGate General Carpark and will be a permanent fixture.