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Max Liebermann

* 1847 – † 1935

Tennisplatz in Noordwijk (Tennis Courts in Noordwijk), 1911

Pastel on paper

Signed at bottom right: MLiebermann

“He spoke in particular of tennis courts in full sun, which everyone else had declared unpaintable, but which he felt had turned out splendidly, the best he had ever painted and above all quite different from all that had gone before.”1

This is how Max Liebermann’s friend and biographer Erich Hancke recounted a conversation of his with the artist in 1911. Liebermann had first taken up tennis as a motif during one of his many stays in Scheveningen ten years earlier.2 Whereas the focus of those first works had been the players viewed from behind and the movements made by each of them, what came to the fore in 1911 were the tennis courts embedded in the dunes at the seaside resort of Noordwijk along with the players and spectators who had congregated there.3 The scene of the fenced-in tennis courts with silhouette-like figures dashing about on them is viewed from an elevated vantage point. In the foreground we encounter two sportily clad gentlemen, each donning an elegant hat, blue jacket and white flannels. Their shadows, also rendered in dark blue, on closer scrutiny can be observed emanating from the players on the courts as well. The lively socialising taking place next to the courts is implied by a liberal flurry of rashly drawn and deliberately blurred lines, while the bright light of summer is effectively conveyed by the areas of pale yellow and the even larger areas of pristine paper. The scene of holiday-makers at this elegant bathing resort is circumscribed by the hotel perched on the dunes in the background. Liebermann was to translate the impressions captured here into an oil painting later that same year4, and would take up the motif of the tennis courts of Noordwijk a second time two years later5. Whereas the tennis courts in the former work are viewed from the same perspective as in our pastel study, the angle of the painting of 1913 is rather different and shows Liebermann selecting as his motif the view from the opposite side so that the courts themselves and the tennis being played on them are in the foreground. The clubhouse and the stairs leading up to it can also be seen in the background of that work. In our pastel study, by contrast, both are viewed from the side and no more than lightly sketched in, in the right middle ground.

  1. Hancke, Erich, Max Liebermann. Sein Leben und seine Werke, Berlin 1914, p. 503.

  2. Cf. Max Liebermann, Tennisspieler am Meer, 1901, oil on cardboard, 30 x 45.8 cm, Niedersächsisches Landesmuseum Hannover, inv. no. KM 1949,122.

  3. Eberle, Matthias, Max Liebermann. Werkverzeichnis der Gemälde und Ölstudien, Vol. 2, Munich 1995, p. 813

  4. Max Liebermann, Tennis in Noordwijk, 1911, oil on canvas, 64 x 78 cm, private collection. Cf. also Eberle 1995, Vol. 2, No. 1911/24, p. 815 (illus.).

  5. Max Liebermann, Tennisplatz mit Spielern (in Noordwijk), 1913, oil on canvas, 71 x 89 cm, Kunstsammlungen der Veste Coburg on permanent loan from the Stiftung Pommern, inv. no. M.348. Cf. also Eberle 1995, Vol. 2, o. 1913/20, p. 873 (illus.).

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