For our July talk, we were very fortunate to have Professor Ann Sumner talking to us about the history of tennis in art, following the publication of a book, or to give the full title:
International Tennis Art – Swindon’s Vicente do Rêgo Monteiro Tennis of 1928 in context
This was the basis of the talk:
‘ Professor Ann Sumner will highlight the painting Tennis of 1928 by Vicente do Rego Monteiro (1899 — 1970), held in the collection of Swindon Art Gallery. He was a Brazilian painter, sculptor, and poet, who trained in Paris at the Académie Julian, returning to Brazil in 1917 and being linked to the Brizillian Modernist movement in the 1920s. Ann will discuss his famous tennis painting in the context of artists who have been drawn to depict the game of tennis from the 1870s onwards, beginning with British artists such as John Lavery through to Laura Knight and Eric Ravilious, before exploring European depictions of tennis particularly by French, Italian, Spanish and German artists and then considering American and South American examples of the genre. These paintings illustrate the wide ranging developments of the sport, and the challenges artists faced in capturing the grace and movement of the game on canvas and in sculptures. The talk is planned to mark the publication of Routledge’s Handbook of Tennis which considers the culture and politics of this popular sport invented in Britain, which quickly became popular internationally. The Swindon painting was selected to be on the cover of this new book. If you are a tennis fan or not, this fascinating survey of paintings inspired by tennis which contextualises the Swindon painting will include discussion of the different approach to tennis art across the world, and a wealth of attractive works by artists from the end of the 19th century through to the 1920s and 30s and up to the present day’.
Looking up Ann just now on Google, I found a myriad of entries for her, including this Wikipedia one. We were very fortunate to have secured Ann for our programme of talks, and did so because having contributed two chapters to the book, and edited it, Ann asked if she could use Vicente do Rego Monteiro’s image on the front:
Curator Sophie Cummings agreed it could be used, it looks fantastic and perfect for the book. Details of the book can be found here.
We’d booked the talk in February little knowing that Thursday 25 July would be the hottest day of the year, breaking records in Cambridge for the highest temperature ever recorded at 38.5 degrees Centigrade. Not a good day for traveling from Yorkshire as Ann did, or for encouraging people to come into the gallery. However we had a wonderful introduction given by Dr Carol Osbourne, assistant editor, and a thought provoking talk. Even something as apparently simple as why do tennis players wear white? Apparently in the latter half of the 19th century, players wore white because it was considered a genteel game, and women would be seen to sweat if they wore anything but white.
Throughout the talk, Ann, seen above, traced tennis through art up to the present day, and afterwards took a number of questions, including one about that very successful photograph of The Tennis Girl, which also has its own Wikipedia page. Afterwards we all had a much better look at Vicente’s tennis players and conversations carried on.