The Tennis Party

Sir John Lavery

TitleThe Tennis Party
ArtistSir John Lavery
Paper Size (W x H)76 x 33 ins
Edition Size50
Price £1,200.00 Excluding VAT

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In 1885, Lavery produced a whole series of images inspired by the social rituals associated with tennis, which culminated in this masterpiece of modern life painting, The Tennis Party. It is a beautiful representation of the emerging sport of lawn tennis, and of the developing social conventions of the late Victorian period.

Lavery’s court was at Cartbank, near Paisley, and the protagonists in this painting included Alex McBride, a friend and fellow artist, and McBride’s sister, who is playing tennis on the right-hand side. As well as reflecting social changes, The Tennis Party was made to appeal to local bourgeois families, who could afford to buy it.

In spite of its apparent spontaneity the painting was carefully composed. During the match, Lavery received advice from fellow artists and Glasgow Boys about how best to arrange the composition. Lavery then took several weeks to finalise the painting in McBride’s studio in Cartbank. Despite receiving a lukewarm reception at the Royal Academy of Art, London, The Tennis Party won a medal at the Paris Salon and was described as being painted in the best “impressionist” manner, suggesting a modern interpretation lacking in a very high finish.

During the 1880s, lawn tennis was an extremely young sport. The original rules of the game, which was entirely distinct from tennis’s earlier incarnations, had been set out by the Leamington Tennis Club several years earlier; but its rise in popularity was quick, and clubs soon appeared throughout the country.

Tennis fitted perfectly with the Baudelairean ideal of la vie moderne that was espoused by Lavery: modern life, he held, should concentrate upon well-mannered social exchange. The ritualised combat of lawn tennis was the perfect setting for this: it was seen as a healthy pursuit for young men and women alike, providing the opportunity for discourse between eligible partners that could easily be supervised by their anxious parents. This painting, which currently resides in the Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museum, is a charming evocation of these elegant times.

The print is hand numbered and accompanied by a certificate signed by the Master Printer and bearing a matching number to the print.

About the Artist

Sir John Lavery

Born in 1856, Sir John Lavery was a celebrated portrait and landscape painter. He was orphaned in infancy and brought up by an uncle near Moira and, later, by another relative in Ayrshire.

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