Tennis Identity

The art of tennis. Courts on canvas.

It’s a little early to cover Wimbledon but for those making plans to head that way, here’s something you may want to add to your trip.

Sir John Lavery, 1885


The Barber Institute of Fine Arts at the University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, England opens a new art exhibit May 27 entitled “Court on Canvas” Tennis in Art that traces the game from the 1870s through the 21st century. Lawn tennis is a special feature.

Artists back in the early days of the game were said to have been particularly enamored with the tennis addicted as they now had an opportunity to depict movement, particularly that of females. Tennis is one of the first sports that women were allowed to participate in.

According to the museum, the first game of tennis was played in 1859 by Major Harry Gem and friend, Jean Batista Augurio Perera, on a court, down the street from the museum at 8 Ampton Road, Edgbaston. And so there you have it. The history of tennis in art where the game began.

Christopher Wood 1 Above is “A Rally” by Sir John Lavery from 1885. Below is something more modern, “The Tennis Players” by Christopher Wood, 1921. Other tennis inspired artists exhibited include: Spencer Gore, LS Lowry, Stanley Spencer, Eric Ravilious, Winnie the Pooh illustrator EH Shepard, David Hockney and Tom Phillips. The iconic 1970s Athena Tennis Girl poster, itself photographed on a tennis court at the University of Birmingham, will also be featured.

The museum is about 1 1/2 hours from Wimbledon or 1 hr. 15 min from London and the exhibit runs through September 18, 2011. Visit The Barber Institute of Fine Arts for more info.