The Art of Golf is the first major museum exhibition in America devoted to this popular game, so rich in history and tradition. Organized by the High Museum of Art in Atlanta and the National Galleries of Scotland, this show features approximately 90 works by Rembrandt, Childe Hassam, George Bellows, Norman Rockwell, and Andy Warhol, among others.
Some of these works have never before been on public display. They all point to golf’s ability to inspire extraordinary works of art. The exhibition is on view from November 3, 2012-February 17, 2013.
The centerpiece is Charles Lees’ The Golfers (1847), the world’s greatest painting in this genre. Reproductions of the work hang in golf clubhouses around the world, but this masterpiece has never before traveled to the United States. It depicts a match played on the Old Course at St. Andrews, with a wealth of fashionable observers gathered around the athletes.
Preparatory sketches (portraits of individuals in the painting) and an early photograph by Hill and Adamson, to which Lees referred, will provide context. So will “golfiana”—antique balls, clubs, and clothing—to illustrate the sport’s earliest days.
The Art of Golf takes a chronological approach to the paintings, as the history of the game unfolds. It begins with images of kolf, a cousin of the modern game, in seventeenth-century Dutch landscape and genre paintings. The exhibition even includes winter scenes of kolf being played on Holland’s frozen canals. Rembrandt’s famous etching, The Ringball Player (1654), is also part of this section.
Golf really had its foundation in Scotland. This development is brilliantly documented by the earliest known depiction of the game in the country (around 1740) and a series of Scottish golfing portraits from the National Galleries of Scotland. William Mosman’s charming full-length double-portrait of the tartan-clad youngsters
Sir James Macdonald and Sir Alexander Macdonald (about 1749) is a high point. So, too, is the dignified portrait of Dr. William Inglis (about 1790) by Sir Henry Raeburn, one of Scotland’s leading artists of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Inglis’s elegant silver club is displayed on the adjacent table as a sign of aristocracy or perhaps meritocracy.