High Museum presents First-Ever Major Exhibition Devoted to Game of Golf at an American Art Museum

  • ATLANTA, Georgia
  • /
  • August 11, 2011

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Image courtesy of High Museum of Art


Organized by the High Museum of Art and the National Galleries of Scotland, “The Art of Golf” will explore the royal and ancient game as depicted by landscape and portrait artists, photographers, Pop artists and sculptors through the ages. This will be the first-ever exhibition devoted to the game by a major American art museum. Comprising approximately 90 works from artists as diverse as Rembrandt, Charles Lees, Norman Rockwell and Andy Warhol, “The Art of Golf” will examine the game’s origins, its foundation in Scotland and its growth in America in the 20th century. The exhibition will also feature a contemporary and interactive video component and large-scale photography, and will be accompanied by a full-color catalogue.

Image courtesy of High Museum of Art

“The Art of Golf” continues the High’s multi-year partnership with National Galleries of Scotland and will be on view at the High Museum of Art from February 4 to June 3, 2012. It will tour to additional U.S. venues, yet to be announced, through the fall of 2013.

“The Art of Golf” brings together rare and sometimes whimsical works―some that have never been on public display―into an artistic narrative exploring the history of the sport,” said Michael E. Shapiro, the High’s Nancy and Holcombe T. Green, Jr., Director. “We are thrilled to be exploring the intersection of sport, history and art with our audiences, while at the same time continuing the tradition of bringing the world’s greatest works of art to Atlanta.” 

The exhibition will begin with a display devoted to the depiction of kolf, a cousin of the modern game, as depicted in early Dutch landscape and genre paintings of the 17th century. This section will include Rembrandt’s famous etching “The Golfer” (1654) and winter landscapes by Hendrick and Barent Avercamp, which depict kolf being played on the frozen canals of Holland. Following in the display will be Scottish artworks of the 18th century, including the earliest known depiction of golf being played in Scotland (ca. 1740). Also included will be a series of iconic Scottish golfing portraits from the National Galleries of Scotland, including a stunning full-length portrait of the tartan-clad Sir James and Sir Alexander MacDonald (ca. 1749) by William Mosman and an incisive portrayal of William Inglis, Captain of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers (ca. 1790), by Sir Henry Raeburn, the preeminent portraitist of the Scottish Enlightenment. Among many objects that will be lent from the collection of the world-renowned Royal and Ancient Golf Club in St. Andrews, Scotland, is the charming portrait of “Old Tom Morris” by Sir George Reid. Morris was one of the great early players, winning four British Opens in the 1860s and also earning fame as a clubmaker and course designer. 

The centerpiece of the exhibition is known as greatest golfing painting in the world: Charles Lees’s “The Golfers,” which portrays in detail a match played on the Old Course at St. Andrews in 1847. Jointly owned by the National Galleries of Scotland and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, this masterpiece has never before traveled to the United States, though reproductions of it hang in golf clubhouses around the world. Displayed alongside the painting will be several preparatory sketches, all portraits of individuals who can be identified in the painting, and an early photograph by Hill and Adamson to which Lees referred as he composed his painting. Also included in this section will be golfiana (antique balls, clubs and clothing) to illustrate the very different equipment used in the earliest days of the sport.

Moving into the early 20th century, the exhibition will present a series of elegant golfing scenes by Sir John Lavery, which capture the chic glamour and appeal of the game in the Roaring Twenties. This section will also feature Art Deco railway posters advertising Scotland’s premier courses to an expanding audience in Britain, and a series of photographs by Harold Edgerton, developer of strobe photography, that features the great Bobby Jones, Jr., hitting a golf ball. Other artists featured in this section include Childe Hassam, James McNeill Whistler, Norman Rockwell and Andy Warhol (an iconic screenprint of golfing superstar Jack Nicklaus, 1977, part of Warhol’s “Athlete Series”).

Fittingly, the exhibition will also feature a special section on legendary American hero and Atlanta native Robert Tyre “Bobby” Jones, Jr. (1902–1971), who popularized golf on the international stage. The exhibition will include portraits of Jones, notable photographs, sculpture and film footage that illustrate his importance to the game and the bond he created between the United States and Scotland, where he came to love and admire the Old Course at St. Andrews.

“The Art of Golf” will close with a series of aerial photographs, newly commissioned by the National Galleries of Scotland, which capture the beauty of iconic Scottish golf courses including the Old Course at St. Andrews and other great seaside courses (“links”) such as Carnoustie, Royal Aberdeen and the beautiful inland golf complex of Gleneagles, set in the majestic beauty of the Perthshire, “gateway” to the Highlands.

“The National Galleries of Scotland are delighted to support an exhibition with such broad appeal. With 27 million registered golfers in the United States this exhibition will draw new audiences to its hosting venues,” commented Michael Clarke, director of the Scottish National Gallery. “The strength of this exhibition lies in its seamless blend of art with a sporting narrative, attracting the broadest possible audience, golfers and art enthusiasts alike.”

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