A Summer Evening on the Musselburgh Links: Golfers, by the Scottish painter Charles Lees, is among the leading works at Bonhams Scottish Art Sale in Edinburgh on Wednesday 11 October.
It is estimated at £300,000-500,000.
Fife-born Lees (1800-1880) first found fame as a portrait painter, but in the 1840s turned increasingly to depicting recreational sporting scenes, mainly golfing, curling and, strangely, chess. He painted the celebrated A Grand Match Played Over St Andrews Links, which now hangs in the National Portrait Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh. It has been described as the most famous golf painting in the world.
The Old Links of Musselburgh six miles east of Edinburgh, is the oldest operational golf course on earth, having been in use for at least 555 years. It is one of three contenders for the original ground on which the game of golf began to be played in Scotland, probably in the mid-14th century. In 2011, Bonhams sold Two Boys with golf clubs and a dog on Musselburgh Links by William Douglas for £82,500. It now hangs in the Royal and Ancient Golf Club in St Andrews.
Painted in 1859, A Summer Evening on the Musselburgh Links: Golfers, which was once owned by the American billionaire collector of British art Paul Mellon, shows the view from the course to the north-west, possibly at the eighth or ninth hole.
In the mid-19th century, golf was a game for the gentry, if only because of the cost of the equipment. In the evenings, however, the caddies who carried the clubs – loose rather than in bags – were allowed to play among themselves. It is such a scene that Lees depicts in A Summer Evening on the Musselburgh Links. These evening matches were important for the democratization of the sport in Scotland, and produced the early heroes of the modern game.
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