The Tennis Party. Sir John Lavery RA RSA RHA (1856–1941). 1885. Oil on canvas. Size: 76.2 x 183 cm. Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums, accession number ABDAG002350. Presented by Sir James Murray in 1926. Marked as out of copyright on the gallery website (see "The Tennis Party"). This is one of several paintings on the subject that Lavery produced at this time. Lawn tennis was then at an interesting stage in its development as a sport. It had emerged in the 1870s, and had been inaugurated at Wimbledon as recently as 1877, when the All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club introduced men's singles championships. Ladies' singles and men's doubles had not been incorporated until 1884 (see "History"). The process by which women arrived on court was a gradual one, then, and mixed doubles matches were yet to come.

However, it is the social side of tennis that is emphasised here. The gallery's own comment reads: "In spite of its apparent spontaneity this picture is not merely an arbitrary slice of life. Male and female players are set against each other — possibly to suggest romantic pairings. A girl, on the threshold of adulthood, stands in waiting for the game of tennis, but also, perhaps, the game of love." This comes out well in the detail shown on the right. The painting features in a two-part account of Lavery in the Studio of 1902, where it is seen as the first work to have brought him to prominence. Its success in Paris is also recorded there (see Little 113).

Image download, text and formatting by Jacqueline Banerjee. You may use the images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and the McManus and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one. [Click on the images to enlarge them.]


"History." Wimbledon (official site). Web. 1 July 2019.

Little, James Stanley. "A Cosmopolitan Painter: John Lavery — Part II." The International Studio, Vol. 18 (1902): 110-20. Hathi Trust. Contributed by the University of Minnesota. Web. 1 July 2019.

"The Tennis Party." Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums. Web. 1 July 2019.

Created 1 July 2019