The Tennis of Painting

Posted by on Jan 5, 2017 in Blog, Inspiration | One Comment

Last summer I heard John McEnroe, the great tennis hero, being interviewed on TV; he was asked about being an art collector and he said that he loves paintings with movement – which was endearingly unsurprising!

I love movement, it contributes to the dynamic of a painting, its brio, if that’s the term, and the movement naturally brings with it the element of direction. You’ll see how uninhibited Joan Mitchell brush strokes send lines flashing about, like Djokovic at the net. Your eye is caught by the movement and you go scurrying after them.

Joan Mitchell – Sunflower

Paintings aren’t often suspenseful to look at, though they are often incredibly exciting. Not exciting in the way a great tennis match is, granted, but when you think about it, a painting has only itself – silent and motionless on a wall – to get across its significance or beauty or message – all in the short time you allow it before moving on to the next one! Excitement happens between you and a work of art. It’s the impact of its essence meeting yours, two unknowns colliding! 

This power to move is expressed in the Matisse masterpiece The Moroccan – see if it does for you. Excitement in tennis is something else, isn’t it? Not like this, but unique in its great moments.


The Moroccans, Henri Matisse, 1916

There are many paintings, of course, with no movement at all, like a Morandi. Charm and contemplation don’t need movement. Even turbulent or restless canvases will usually have a quiet area where you can take a breather, like tennis players do when they sit at the side of the court between games to have a drink and a think.

Natura Morta, Giorgio Morandi, 1951


I wonder does John McEnroe have a Joan Mitchell? Lucky him if he does!

1 Comment

  1. Camilla
    January 21, 2017

    I like the connection you’ve made and not at all obvious. The dynamics of tennis and painting, food for thought!

Leave a Reply