Charles Lees, RSA (Scottish, 1800-1880) A summer evening on the Musselburgh Links: Golfers 55 x 98 cm. (21 5/8 x 38 9/16 in.)
Lot 38*
Charles Lees, RSA
(Scottish, 1800-1880)
A summer evening on the Musselburgh Links: Golfers 55 x 98 cm. (21 5/8 x 38 9/16 in.)
£300,000 - 500,000
US$ 400,000 - 660,000

Scottish Art

11 Oct 2017, 14:00 BST

Edinburgh

Lot Details
Charles Lees, RSA (Scottish, 1800-1880) A summer evening on the Musselburgh Links: Golfers 55 x 98 cm. (21 5/8 x 38 9/16 in.) Charles Lees, RSA (Scottish, 1800-1880) A summer evening on the Musselburgh Links: Golfers 55 x 98 cm. (21 5/8 x 38 9/16 in.) Charles Lees, RSA (Scottish, 1800-1880) A summer evening on the Musselburgh Links: Golfers 55 x 98 cm. (21 5/8 x 38 9/16 in.) Charles Lees, RSA (Scottish, 1800-1880) A summer evening on the Musselburgh Links: Golfers 55 x 98 cm. (21 5/8 x 38 9/16 in.)
Charles Lees, RSA (Scottish, 1800-1880)
A summer evening on the Musselburgh Links: Golfers
signed and dated 'C. Lees R.S.A./1859' (lower left)
oil on canvas
55 x 98 cm. (21 5/8 x 38 9/16 in.)

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    Walter Brown, Canada. Inherited from his father (by 1914), who had purchased the picture from the R.S.A. exhibition in 1860.
    Paul Mellon, acquired circa 1930s. Inventory no. PM 6996. American banking heir Mellon has been called the 'greatest collector of British art of any period'.
    George Warren Wyckoff Sr (1907-1987), a gift from the above. Wyckoff was Vice President and Governor of T. Mellon & Sons, Pittsburgh, and personal representative of Paul Mellon on the board of the National Gallery in Washington.
    Thence by descent.

    Exhibited
    Edinburgh, Royal Scottish Academy, 1860, cat.no.75

    Literature
    Apparently appeared in Golf Illustrated, 1914.
    P. Pilley, Golfing Art, Stanley Paul, 1988, pp.38-39
    D. Hamilton, Golf-Scotland's Game, Partick Press, 1998. Illustrated on the front cover.


    As the painter of the monumental A Grand Match Played Over St Andrews Links (acquired by the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in 2002 for over £2.5M), Fife-born Lees' place is assured in the pantheon of great golfing artists. The portraitist completed several other golf subjects circa 1846-1864, as well as depicting curling, skating, shinty (and chess!).

    The Old Links of Musselburgh, some six miles east of Edinburgh, is the oldest operational golf course on earth. It vies with Leith Links and Bruntsfield Links for the claim to being the original playing ground for golf in Scotland, probably in the mid-14th Century. The game has been played continuously at Musselburgh for not less than 550 years, and Mary Queen of Scots reputedly played on the Links in 1567.

    At the time of Lees' painting, the Old Links at Musselburgh were shared by the eminent Bruntsfield and Royal Burgess Societies, within the Company of Edinburgh Golfers. They had moved there in 1836, remaining until the relocation to Muirfield in 1891.

    The present picture is much informed by the Grand Match, painted some twelve years earlier. The complex and accomplished poses of the formally-attired figures are similar, succinctly capturing the action and drama and focusing the viewer's attention in different areas of the canvas as the players putt and drive on the north-western Links amidst rapt onlookers.

    Golf in this period was accessible only to the gentry, or the wealthy, not least due to the cost of bespoke wooden-shafted clubs and balls (in this case, probably gutties). Caddies carried clubs loose, and were allowed to play among themselves in the long summer evenings. Champions such as Willie Park Sr started his career in this fashion on Old Musselburgh Links.

    No fewer than six Open Championships were played at Musselburgh between 1874 and 1889. Local hero Mungo Park won the Open at Musselburgh in 1874, and his legendary brother Willie's rivalry with the great Old Tom Morris was one of the most keenly-contested in golf history. Willie's son, Willie Jr, was also an Open winner, and the family established a celebrated club-making and course designing business in the town. The hole-cutter invented at Musselburgh Golf Club in 1829 (4 1/4 ins in diameter) became the world-wide standard in 1891, having found favour with the game's governing body, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews.

    Historic golfing pictures come rarely to the market. For an earlier example, see William Douglas' fine watercolour of two boys and a dog on Old Musselburgh Links, drawn in 1809 and sold in these rooms on December 8, 2011 (£87,500). In 2015, Bonhams sold Lemuel Francis Abbott's portrait of Henry Callender, Captain of Royal Blackheath Golf Club, for £722,500.

    Charles Lees R.S.A. was born in Cupar in 1800, receiving formal instruction from Sir Henry Raeburn before embarking on six months' study in Rome. Lees became a noted society portraitist and sporting painter, later turning to landscape as a means of exploring his particular talent for light effects. This is fully demonstrated in the opalescent sky in the present picture.

    We are grateful to Professor David Purdie, and Michael Clarke, for assistance in cataloguing this lot.
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  2. May Matthews
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