This early American poster masterpiece by Edward Penfield promoted the first Western Lawn Tennis championship. The Association was created the previous summer, and reflected the explosion of interest in the sport in fashionable communities around the US.
Penfield is often called the father of the modern poster in America. A New Yorker by birth and training, he rose to fame as art director of Harper's from 1891 to 1901, creating a monthly series of posters for the magazine's new issue from 1893 to 1899. His posters were distinguished by their utter simplicity and clarity, utilizing flat planes of color and solitary figures that stood out from the billboards and conveyed a noble reserve and often an understated wit.
This is perhaps Penfield's most ambitious design, with its complex interplay of images in the fore, middle and background combined with a plethora of text. The foreground is pure Penfield - an aristocratic and welcoming young woman, her tennis racquet drawing us to the simplified tennis match in the middle. The clubhouse in the rear and the protective canopy of a single tree completes the scene. The lettering amazingly works above all of it, with the circle around the year making it dynamic and interesting. It is a fascinating poster, with a timeless quality that has made it one of my favorites.
Extremely rare and in superb condition.