The Golfers, 1847, by Charles Lees. Oil on canvas, 51 1/2 x 84 1/4 inches (130.8 x 214 cm). Scottish National Portrait Gallery: Purchased with the assistance of the Heritage Lottery Fund, The Art Fund, and the Royal and Ancient Gold Club, 2002. Photograph by A. Reeve
The Art of Golf
March 16, 2013 - July 7, 2013The Golfers (1847), an iconic work by Scottish painter Charles Lees (1800–1880), is the centerpiece of The Art of Golf, an exhibition celebrating what has been called “a game of considerable passion” on the occasion of the U.S. Open Championships, which will be played in June at the Merion Golf Club, in Ardmore, Pennsylvania. This installation explores the creation of Lees’s complex and ambitious masterpiece, bringing together related works, including sketches, a photograph, and an engraving, alongside golf equipment and clothing that illuminate the sport. Modern golf’s roots can be traced to the east coast of Scotland, where kings and commoners have played the game since at least the fifteenth century. With the formation of golf societies, the establishment of rules, and the creation of annual competitions in the mid-eighteenth century, Scottish artists began depicting the sportsmanship and pleasures of the royal and ancient game. Lees’s monumental painting of fifty-four figures clustered tightly around a two-ball foursome match played on the links at St. Andrews is filled with accurate representations of celebrated golfers of the day as well as enthusiasts and authorities on the sport. Rich with descriptive details of costume and social customs, such as the young girl selling ginger beer refreshments to the crowd, the work is a tour de force of Victorian art.