MARK SENIOR (BRITISH, 1864-1927)
MARK SENIOR (BRITISH, 1864-1927)
MARK SENIOR (BRITISH, 1864-1927)
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THE PROPERTY OF A PRIVATE COLLECTOR
MARK SENIOR (BRITISH, 1864-1927)

The tennis player

Details
MARK SENIOR (BRITISH, 1864-1927)
The tennis player
signed 'M Senior' (lower left)
oil on canvas
33 x 25 in. (83.8 x 63.5 cm.)

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Sarah Reynolds
Sarah Reynolds Specialist, Head of Sale

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Lot Essay


The 1870s saw the rise in popularity of lawn tennis, which was in part due to Major Walter Wingfield, who sold boxed sets of the game. Following this, vast numbers of tennis clubs were set up around the country and quickly lawn tennis became an important pastime for the burgeoning leisured classes. The sport was particularly appealing to young women, who, for the first time, experienced the opportunity to exercise freely, as well as interact with men in a more relaxed, though still chaperoned, environment.
Indeed, most early paintings of the sport focus exclusively on female players, as artists were interested in the novelty of women playing sport (A. Sumner, Court on Canvas: Tennis in Art, London, 2011, p. 11). Lavery, for instance, depicted the game frequently. It is probable that Mark Senior saw Lavery’s celebrated painting The Tennis Party, 1885 (Aberdeen Art Gallery) either at the Royal Academy in 1886 (no. 740), or when it was toured extensively thereafter. Another important influence on Senior was Philip Wilson Steer, who taught him at the Slade from 1895. The influence of Steer and the Impressionists permeated Senior’s work, and led him to experiment with thick and spontaneous applications of paint.
In 1882, Robert Durie Osborn outlined the key conditions for the game in his book, Lawn Tennis: its players and how to play. ‘There should be bright warm sun overhead, and just sufficient breeze whispering through the trees…to prevent the day from being sultry…if all these conditions are present, an afternoon spent at lawn tennis is a high Christian and beneficent pastime’. This painting depicts such conditions: dappled light and the conjuring up of a gentle breeze on a hot summer’s day, were almost certainly recorded en plein air, as admired in the work of the Impressionists. An unidentified young woman stands on the court holding her tennis racket in her left hand, and turns to the viewer with an inquisitive gaze, as if interrupted mid-service. Over the net, her opponent stands, ready to receive her pass, whilst two chaperones watch from a bench. Within this painting, Senior wonderfully captures a fleeting moment of stillness within the frenzy of a tennis match – impressionism encapsulated.

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