Sir John Lavery, R.A., R.S.A., R.H.A. (1856-1941)
Sir John Lavery, R.A., R.S.A., R.H.A. (1856-1941)

Tennis, Hotel Beau Site, Cannes

Sir John Lavery, R.A., R.S.A., R.H.A. (1856-1941)
Tennis, Hotel Beau Site, Cannes
signed 'J. Lavery' (lower left), signed again, inscribed and dated 'TENNIS HOTEL/BEAU-SITE./CANNES/BY JOHN LAVERY/5 CROMWELL PLACE/LONDON./1929.' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
30 x 40 in. (76.2 x 101.6 cm.)
Alice McEnery, the artist's step-daughter, by whom given to the present owner's mother in 1974, and by descent.
Exhibition catalogue, Royal Academy Illustrated, London, Royal Academy, 1929, p. 18, illustrated.
K. McConkey, Sir John Lavery, Edinburgh, 1993, p. 186.
K. McConkey, John Lavery, A Painter and his World, Edinburgh, 2010, p. 185.
K. McConkey, 'Tennis Parties' in A. Sumner (ed.), exhibition catalogue, Court on Canvas: Tennis in Art, Birmingham, Barber Institute of Fine Arts, 2011, p. 75, fig. 3.28, illustrated.
London, Royal Academy, 1929, no. 194, as 'Les Orangers du Beau-Site de Cannes'.
Pittsburgh, Carnegie Institute, Great Britain, no. 256, as 'Tennis at Cannes'.
Glasgow, Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts, 1930, no. 208, as 'Tennis at Cannes'.

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André Zlattinger
André Zlattinger

Lot Essay

Having been introduced to the Riviera by Winston Churchill in 1921, Lavery sold his house in Tangier in 1923 and although he and Lady Lavery experimented with a winter holiday at Montreux the following year and exhibition-related visits to the United States intervened thereafter, they set off for the Hotel Beau Site at Cannes at new year in 1929. These three month sojourns were a busman's holiday for the painter as, surrounded by the wealthy pleasure-seekers of Scott Fitzgerald, he was constantly on the look-out for new subjects. He had probably decided in advance that one project would be to paint the celebrated Salles Privés, (Private Collection) at Monte Carlo. This was accomplished with the help of a series of on-the-spot oil sketches of the principal players.1<\sup>

At the same time Lavery must have realised that his hotel at Cannes was renowned for its tennis courts which, as can be seen from an early postcard, were screened by orange trees. Although the Riviera tennis clubs were formed around the turn of the century, tournaments at Cannes took off in the mid-twenties when the prospect of an encounter between Suzanne Lenglen and Helen Wills provoked the The Sunday Times to comment that the game was 'a godsend to hotel-keepers, who would otherwise probably have to deplore losses resulting from a particularly rainy season'2<\sup>.

For Lavery the game had a special resonance. The picture which achieved his first notable success atthe Paris Salon was of course The Tennis Party, 1885. This had in 1926, been de-accessioned by the Munich Pinakothek, and was immediately snapped up by Sir James Murray for Aberdeen Art Gallery.

In works like Played!!, (sold in these Rooms, 26 May 2011, lot 94) also painted during that momentous mid-eighties summer, Lavery proved himself the leading 'painter of modern life' in the emergent Glasgow School. Various tennis pictures followed this as artists such as James Guthrie, Arthur Melville and Henry La Thangue realised the potential of the new craze as subject matter. The game remained popular around that turn of the century, and while there are no accounts of Lavery playing it, we know from one of her portraits that his daughter, Eileen, was keen on the game (Lawn Tennis Museum, Wimbledon).

Then, in 1919 on a visit to Trent Park, the home of Sir Philip Sassoon, the artist was once more confronted with the spectacle (William Morris Gallery, Walthamstow). In the intervening years what had essentially begun as a pastime for sons and daughters of the suburban middle classes had spread throughout the Empire. Country houses of the gentry constructed courts at the same time as municipal parks in provincial cities. The spread of literacy, cheap newspapers and sports reporting brought championship tournaments to the masses and the return of The Tennis Party to a British public collection compounded Lavery's enthusiasm for the game. On his sojourn at Palm Beach, he painted Florida in Winter, a vivid sketch of Hazel Lavery reading on a parapet overlooking the courts at the Breakers Hotel.3<\sup>

However, one other compelling reason for a second major tennis picture, was provided by Lavery's step-daughter, Alice Trudeau. A tall, willowy sporting type, Alice had mastered golf, was a keen horsewoman and also a skilful tennis player. She accompanied the painter and her mother to Cannes in January 1929 and her enthusiasm, which her mother did not share, led the painter, in the final weeks of his stay, to the courts at the Hotel Beau Site. There, Alice received coaching from the Irish Davis Cup player, George Lyttleton Rogers, and it is possible that he is the principal server in the game which Lavery observes.

There had been snow on the Riviera at the time of Lavery's arrival and during that spring it had been unusually cold. Spectators, as is clear from the present work, are well-wrapped, even though the sun is shining. These foreground figures draw the composition together and add a new spatial layer that, with the orange tree, help to frame the game. Originally the woman on the left, wearing a cloche hat, sat under an umbrella to shield her from the sun, but this, possibly because of its inconsistency, was painted out.4<\sup>

Alice went on to compete in the Cannes Handicap finals the following year - an event celebrated in a second, smaller version of Les Orangers du Beau Site de Cannes5<\sup>. In this she replaces the male server and the foreground figures are omitted. Although Lavery presented this version to his secretary, Charles Robert Chisman, in gratitude for his service in 1930, it is possible that it was painted a year earlier and formed the basis of the now re-discovered larger work.

It is undoubtedly the case that the present, larger version with its foreground spectators was favoured by the Laverys since they made it their new year greetings card for 1930.

It was also true that taken alongside the Salles Privés and Lavery's large commemorative canvas depicting the opening of the Duveen Galleries at the Tate Gallery (Tate), this was a particularly strong Academy showing for the '... master of swift notation, infallibly accurate in the registration of colour values ...' who, according to P.G. Konody, writing in The Observer, was also the provider of ' sparkling, animated glimpses of modern life'.6<\sup> The old ideals that motivated the original Tennis Party were undimmed.

We are very grateful to Professor Kenneth McConkey for preparing this catalogue entry.

1<\sup> McConkey, 2010, p. 179.
2<\sup> McConkey, 2011, p. 81 (note 59).
3<\sup> Lavery was concurrently holding an exhibition at Whitehall, Palm Beach during the winter months of 1926-7.
4<\sup> It is possible that this figure was posed by Hazel Lavery.
5<\sup> The visit to Cannes in 1930 coincided with Alice's wedding in March to a wealthy Irish tennis-playing farmer called Jack McEnery, much to the chagrin of her mother.
6<\sup> P.G. Konody, 'The Royal Academy, This Year's Exhibition', The Observer, 5 May 1929, p. 5.

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