Head of Scottish Pictures
Tom Morris Senior, Online / Henry Jamyn Brooks (British, 1839-1925) Portrait of Tom Morris Senior
£350,000 - £550,000
Commissioned by Dickinson & Foster, 1897
Glasgow Golf Club, since 1908
Tom Morris Senior (1821–1908)
Although golf had been played in Scotland for centuries before his day, Old Tom Morris is rightly viewed as the father of the game as we see it played today the world over.
Seemingly always destined for a life in golf, Morris was born in St Andrews into a golfing family, his father was a caddy at the famous course. Morris was apprenticed to Allan Robertson, a local skilled maker of golfing equipment and, more importantly, for two decades, an undisputed golf champion who earned a good living from lucrative challenge matches. Robertson invited Morris to team up with him for doubles matches and they were so dominant that they became known as the Invincibles. The pair were to split acrimoniously when Robertson caught Morris experimenting with gutta-percha golf balls, as opposed to the feathered balls in which his company specialised. However, they did eventually resolve their differences to continue their lucrative pairing; one match's winnings was £400 which equates to about £54,000 today.
Morris moved to Prestwick Golf Club in 1851, where he tended the course, developed his interest in course architecture, and continued playing to the highest level.
In 1860 he took the first shot in the nascent Open Championship and, though he failed to win that year, he subsequently became Open Champion four times in all. He still holds two records in the Open Championship: the oldest winner at 46 in 1867, and the largest winning margin by a winner, by 13 strokes in 1862. And with his son, Young Tom Morris, he holds the record as being part of the only father/son pair to finish as winner and runner up, in 1869.
He returned to St Andrews in 1864, with the job of restoring the Links which had fallen into disrepair. He applied an innovative technique with sand to help nurse the greens back to health, widened the fairways and maintained the tee boxes. He also began to think strategically about the placement of bunkers, as opposed to relying on nature. In 1873, the course was considered worthy of hosting its first Open. In all, Morris is believed to have designed 75 golf courses across the UK including Carnoustie, Muirfield and Royal Portrush, making him one of the greatest ever golf course architects.
Old Tom Morris played in every Open Championship until 1895, when he was 74. When he died, in 1908, he was 87, and it is said that his funeral procession extended the entire length of South Street in St Andrews, from the port to the cathedral. Memorials to him include the name of a road in St Andrews and in the form of just about every golf course in the world; not to mention the way the very game of golf itself has been played is a result of his influence.
'He was painted by artists, honoured by poets, patronized by royalty, revered by The Royal and Ancient Golf Club and showered with praise and affection by golfers everywhere. Tom Morris was a sporting hero in an age of heroes, as well as golf's first iconic figure.' (David Malcolm and Peter E. Crabtree, Tom Morris of St. Andrews: The Colossus of Golf 1821-1908, Birlinn Ltd, 2012, p.XVIII).
Henry Jamyn Brooks (1839–1925)
Brooks was a well-known portrait artist of the Victorian era. He exhibited at the Royal Academy and National Gallery on many occasions and painted the portraits of other famous people, including W E Gladstone, King Edward VII and K S Ranjitsinhji. He also painted Queen Victoria's last ceremony, when she received Lord Roberts and his staff on their return from the Boer War in 1901. His other subjects included cricket matches at Eton, Charterhouse and Rugby, as well as Henley Royal Regatta, but perhaps his most remarkable work is 'A Private View of the Old Masters Exhibition in the Royal Academy', which he donated to the National Portrait Gallery in 1919.
There were several variations to the spelling of his name over the years. He signed the Dickinson prints of this Tom Morris portrait as H Jamyn Brooks.
Dickinson & Foster, the London art dealers and publishers, commissioned Brooks to paint this portrait of Tom Morris Senior, from which they produced an unknown number of prints, signed by both Brooks and Morris, in 1897.
According to a contemporary report in Golf 'the bronzed face is depicted with marvellous accuracy, and the artist has succeeded beyond cavil in catching the genial expression of frank benevolence which is such a fine trait of the old golfer's character'.
When it was displayed in Dickinson & Foster's London studio, where it was apparently viewed by the Prince of Wales, the figure of Morris was painted life size, and the prints produced and sold by Dickinsons show him full length; the canvas was subsequently trimmed down at some stage in its history.
Glasgow Golf Club and Old Tom
Glasgow Golf Club has been in existence since at least 1787, making it one of the 10 oldest golf clubs in the world, and it is unique in having two courses 35 miles apart. One is the Gailes Links course in Ayrshire, while the Club's headquarters since 1903 have been at Killermont, amongst heritage parkland on the North bank of the River Kelvin, just five miles from Glasgow city centre.
On Tuesday 8th December 1903, Old Tom visited Killermont to survey the estate which Glasgow Golf Club had recently leased from the Campbell-Colquhoun family and to lay out the line of play. By then, he was well into his 83rd year and his position as one of the game's legendary figures had been long established.
William Gault, the Club's greenkeeper, vividly recalled Old Tom's visit;
'He had no doubts as to the suitability of the ground for golf, as he declared when viewing the landscape that Providence had intended the place for a golf course; which expression by the Grand Old Man was considered a high testimony of its worth'. (William Gault, Practical Golf Greenkeeping, Golf Printing & Publishing Co, London, 1912).
Golf course architecture became an art form, an exercise in imagination and golf knowledge largely through the influence of Old Tom Morris. He was the first golf course architect of note. Killermont has been described as the best preserved 18-hole layout of Tom Morris. (Robert Kroeger, The Golf Courses of Old Tom Morris, Heritage Communications, Cincinnati, 1995). It was in fact the last 18-hole course he designed.
When Dickinson & Foster offered the original Brooks portrait for sale, after Old Tom's death on May 24 1908, the Glasgow Club Council decided at its October meeting that year 'to purchase the picture and to hang it at Killermont, the funds for purchasing to be provided by subscription'. The Council minutes do not show how much they paid for it, but the Royal & Ancient Committee of Management records show that at their meeting on June 19 they had declined an offer from Dickinsons to sell it for 'the reduced price of 25 guineas'.
Golf Illustrated reported the acquisition in its October 30 edition, saying: '...it is considered an excellent likeness of the St Andrews golfer. The painting will probably be hung in the dining room of the palatial club house at Killermont.'
The R & A already owned a portrait of Tom Morris Senior. They had commissioned Sir George Reid (1841–1913) to paint Old Tom's portrait some five years earlier. It too was reproduced in print form while the original has hung in the R & A clubhouse ever since.
It seems as if the Brooks and Reid portraits are two of only three oil paintings of Old Tom, according to a letter to the editor of Golf Illustrated in November 1908. David Louden, of New York Cottage, St Andrews, wrote: '...there are very few paintings of him. One of the three oil paintings was executed by Mr. C.A. Sellar in 1891...the only other known paintings of Tom are that by Sir George Reid R.S.A.,...and another which has been recently purchased by the Killermont Club, Glasgow.'
During major renovation work on the Killermont clubhouse in the early 1930s, or more likely at the outbreak of World War II, it was taken down to the cellars, presumably for safe keeping. In 1986 it was cleaned and restored and in recent recent years, the Club loaned the portrait to the British Golf Museum in St Andrews (recently re-named as The R&A World Golf Museum).
Bonhams thank Nevin McGhee, the Archivist at Glasgow Golf Club, for his assistance with this footnote.