Charles Lees’ sporting artworks united at last

Charles Lees' masterpiece The Golfers is to be exhibited. Picture: Julie Bull
Charles Lees' masterpiece The Golfers is to be exhibited. Picture: Julie Bull
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THEY were created by the same celebrated Scottish artist after years of painstaking work and went on to become two of the nation’s most celebrated sporting paintings.

Charles Lees’ 19th century masterpieces, which bore a ­remarkable similarity to each other, featured the leading golfers and curlers of the time.

Despite being completed just six years apart, the two paintings have never been seen alongside each other – until now.

The National Galleries of Scotland (NGS) has brought the “epic” and “imposing” works together for a display of sporting works of art and memorabilia devoted to the 19th century.

The move has been made possible after the national curling body, which has owned Lees’ painting of a match in Linlithgow since 1898, agreed to allow it to go on long-term loan following the completion of a major restoration project.

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It has been reunited with Lees’ painting of a golf match at the historic Old Course in St Andrews, which was in private hands until 2002, until it was ­secured for the nation.

The Royal Caledonian Curling Club had considered selling its painting over the past decade, as it was thought to be worth at least half a million pounds, but decided instead to mount a £50,000 restoration campaign to secure its future.

Imogen Gibbon, senior curator at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, said: “They are two of the most important and iconic sporting paintings, not just in Scottish terms, but from anywhere in the world. They represent two of Scotland’s national sports at a very important point in the 19th century.”

Fife-born Lees, a linen manufacturer’s son, who was taught by the celebrated 19th-century portrait artist Sir Henry Raeburn, was elected to the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh in 1830.

The Golfers depicts a crucial meeting in an 1844 match between Sir David Baird and Sir Ralph Anstruther against Major Hugh Lyon Playfair and John Campbell, which was being played to coincide with the annual meeting of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club.

The curling painting – entitled The Grand Match at Linlithgow Loch – depicts an encounter between curlers from the north and south of the River Forth, staged in 1848.

NGS director Christopher Baker added: “It’s wonderful to be able to bring these two paintings together, and we are very grateful to the Royal Caledonian Curling Club for their generosity in lending The Grand Match, making it possible.”

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