Modern Minute: George Bellows, "Tennis Tournament" (1920)

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Modern Minute: George Bellows, "Tennis Tournament" (1920)

Phil Archer of Reynolda House discusses George Bellows's Tennis Tournament, on view in the Museum's exhibition Reynolda Moderns

Modern Minute: "Tennis Tournament" George Bellows

Reynolda House is grateful for the generous support of Reynolda Moderns from media sponsor Our State magazine.

[TRANSCRIPT] Phil Archer, Reynolda House: George Bellows, “Tennis Tournament” 1920


Tennis anyone? This image is “Tennis [Tournament]” by George Bellows, one of the truly great realist painters of the 20th century. Bellows spent the summer of 1919 in Newport, Rhode Island where he enjoyed watching the leading tennis stars of the day play at the Newport Lawn Tennis Club. This image contains many of the subjects often treated by George Bellows:  leisure activities, the outward expressions of class, in this case those of the upper classes, and competitive sports.


In this image at the foreground, we see three players in a tennis match. One player leaps for an overhead volley. His teammates pose suggests that he’s just hit a foreground shot across the net and the balls been returned. Shadows are cast upon the grass court by elegantly dressed spectators. Farther still there are couples and groups strolling and reclining on the grass that contains our court. Farther still there is the Newport Casino designed by preeminent gilded age architect Charles McKim and Stanford White. And at the top of the image the glowing sky. George Bellows was a master printmaker. With just black ink and white paper, he could create all the effects of light on various surfaces. The light it wreaths the trees, it sheaths the white limbs of the players in their tennis whites, and it fills those parasails like orbs in a constellation, a constellation that rose and set that summer 1919 in Newport.


In those years, tennis was also a popular pastime at Reynolda. There was a court over the 16 acre Lake Katharine and it was clay, and there was another court across the street by the chapel. So in those days, people would have been dressed much like people in this image, enjoying a sunny afternoon of tennis.



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