Tennis at Newport

George Bellows (American, Columbus, Ohio 1882–1925 New York)

Oil on canvas
40 x 43 1/4 in. (101.6 x 109.9 cm)
Credit Line:
Bequest of Miss Adelaide Milton de Groot (1876-1967), 1967
Accession Number:
  • Description

    Born in 1882 in Columbus Ohio, George Bellows studied at Ohio State University where he excelled at both sports and art. As a freshman, his drawings already began to appear in student publications, but by 1904, following his junior year, he moved to New York City. Shortly thereafter, Bellows became a pupil of the American painter Robert Henri at William Merritt Chase's New York School of Art. An innovator of subject matter rather than technique, Henri encouraged sketching from life and inspired the Ashcan School (also known as The Eight), a radical group of realists bound by their interest in depicting scenes from everyday life and the activities of ordinary people. Bellows became associated with the second generation of the Ashcan School painters and his earliest style reflected this association. His subject matter often included portraiture, the city, the river, the circus, and boxing matches, and his spontaneous painting style and choice of colors could be described as impressionistic.

    Bellows was an important personality in the New York art scene. He taught at the Art Students League (1910–11, 1917) and was an Academician of the National Academy of Design. He also helped organize the famous 1913 "International Exhibition of Modern Art" at the 69th Regiment Armory in New York. The Armory Show, in which Bellows also exhibited his work, had a major impact on the American art world as it marked the first major exposure of the new modernist techniques in European art—Cubism, Fauvism, and Expressionism—to the United States and brutally exposed the provincialism of American aims and achievements. Bellows, however, unlike many of his colleagues, did not surrender to such influences himself. In the last ten years of his life, he focused more on drawing, which he considered to be the backbone of his work, and explored the medium of lithography. In 1925, Bellows died at the age of forty-two following an appendectomy.

    In August 1919, Bellows painted "Tennis at Newport" in his New York studio from sketches he had made the previous summer, and the following year (1920) he produced two lithographs of this subject. The annual tennis tournament at the Newport Casino in Rhode Island was an important sporting event and social occasion. In 1919, Bill Tilden and William Johnson were the star players, but Bellows's painting emphasizes the setting rather than the game. Although the players are seen in the foreground, racquets raised in volley, it is the spectators strolling about the grounds and lingering on the lawn who divert our attention. The artist draws our eye into the composition by means of the strong diagonal of sunlight that streams from behind the building in the background and through the trees. This geometrical framework is balanced by spontaneous, broad, and painterly brushstrokes. The overall style recalls the influence of Impressionism and of Bellows's contemporaries in "The Eight," particularly William Glackens and John Sloan.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Signature: Signed and dated (lower right): Geo Bellows/1919

  • Provenance

    The artist (until d. 1925; his estate); his widow, Emma S. Bellows; [H.V. Allison & Co., New York]; Frederic S. Allen, Pelham Manor, N. Y. (1944); [H.V. Allison & Co., New York]; Adelaide Milton de Groot, New York, (1949–d. 1967; her bequest to MMA)

  • Exhibition History

    New York, NY: H.V. Allison & Co., Inc., ¦Paintings by George Bellows¦, 27 March - 29 April 1944.

    Boston, MA: Museum of Fine Arts, ¦Sport in American Art¦, 10 October - 10 December 1944, no. 6.

    Hartford, Conn.: Wadsworth Atheneum. The Adelaide Milton de Groot loan collection, Jan. 10-Feb. 12, 1950, listed as "Tennis Tournament".

    Hartford, Conn.: Wadsworth Atheneum. Off for the holidays, a loan exhibition of holiday travel, sites, pastimes, sports and pleasures, April 14 - June 6, 1955, no. 61 (lists Tennis at Newport, 40 x 43-1/2 in., lent by Miss Adelaide Milton de Groot).

    Columbus, Ohio. The Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts. Paintings by George Bellows, March 21-April 21, 1957, no. 43 (lists Tennis Tournament, 40 x 42, under 1919, lent by Miss Adelaide M. de Groot).

    Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art-Smithsonian Institution. George Bellows, a retrospective exhibition, Jan. 19-Feb. 24, 1957, p. 19, no. 40 (lists M.M.A. work as "TENNIS TOURNAMENT"; notes "Painted in August 1919 from sketches made at the annual tournament held at the Casino in Newport, Rhode Island."; 40" x 42"; lent by Miss Adelaide M. de Groot), p. 73, no. 40 (ill. as Tennis Tournament 1919).

    Los Angeles, CA: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Lytton Gallery (June 3 - July 31, 1966); San Francisco, CA: M.H. De Young Memorial Museum (August 16 - Oct. 16, 1966). American paintings from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1966, p. 140, no. 124 (ill., listed, lent by Adelaide Milton de Groot, 1952).

    New York: The Gallery of Modern Art, including the Huntington Hartford Collection. George Bellows, paintings, drawings, lithographs, March 15, 1966-May 1, 1966, p. 34, no. 55 (ill. Tennis at Newport, lent by Mr. C. Ruxton Love, Jr., New York), no. 52 lent by Adelaide Milton de Groot, New York; listed under 1919), no. 55 (lists Tennis at Newport, 57 x 63 inches, lent by Mr. C. Ruxton Love, Jr., New York; listed under 1920).

    Southampton, New York. Parrish Art Museum. A salute to the olympics, sports in art, July 26 - August 18, 1968, p. 10, no. 15 (listed).

    New York: The Kennedy Galleries. The hundredth anniversary exhibition of paintings and sculpture by 100 artists associated with Art Students League of New York, 1975. introduction by Lawrence Campbell. no. 7, p. 52 (discussed), p. 53 (illustrated in black and white).

    American Federation of Arts travelling exhibition. The Figure in 20th Century American Art. Selections from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Jacksonville, Florida: Jacksonville Art Museum, Feb. 9-Apr. 14, 1985; Oklahoma City: Oklahoma Museum of Art, May 5-Jun. 30, 1985; New York: National Academy of Design, Jun. 14-Sept. 1, 1985; Evanston, Illinois: Terra Museum of American Art, Sept. 22-Nov. 10, 1985; Little Rock, Arkansas: Arkansas Arts Center, Dec. 1-Jan. 19, 1986. Colorado Springs, Colorado: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Feb. 9-Mar. 30, 1986.

    Minnesota Museum of Art, Saint Paul. Apr. 20-Jun. 8, 1986 (discussion on pg. 100; illus. pg 101).

    Boston: The Museum of Fine Arts; Washington, D.C.: The Corcoran Gallery of Art; Louisville: J.B. Speed Art Museum; Dallas: Dallas Museum of Fine Arts; Denver: Denver Art Museum; Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum; San Francisco: California Palace of the Legion of Honor; Australia, Nov. 15, 1955 - Nov. 1956, ¦Sport in Art¦, Sports Illustrated & the American Federation of Arts, 1955, cat. #6.

    Detroit: Detroit Institute of Arts, August 2, 2007 - May 25, 2008. "Life's Pleasures: The Ashcan Artists' Brush with Leisure, 1895-1925." P. 154, cat. 37, color illus.

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History