Virginia Wade: 1977 Wimbledon, Art by Rosemary Taylor

Note: The vast majority of these words are those of Virginia Wade, taken directly from Virginia Wade’s much lengthier account of this day from her autobiography: Courting Triumph. Some words have been added, changed, or reshuffled for purposes of this piece. 

Wimbledon’s sixteen years, its fifteen failures. Those journalists had not written about me hundreds of times; They had written once and repeated it a hundred times. “Termagant.” ‘Shrew.” “Ginny’s Temper.” “Ginny Fizz.” Finally I’m in the final. Take deep breaths, relax your shoulders. Chuffed the queen’s wearing almost the identical shade of pink as I. Don’t think. The weight of the Royal glare on my shoulders. Why do grown people do this?

Betty hits a smash to break my serve. Down 4-5, I could almost see the TV sets fading and dying, switched off by tremulous hands. Betty can’t keep serving that well. It’s tough doing anything when it’s just BANG BANG like this. What must everyone be thinking? Mr. Jackson, the Fishmonger, promised to give me an entire salmon. Mr. Neaves, the neighboring farmer, promised me the most lucious strawberries in the country. Mr. Andrea, my favorite Restaurateur in London, promised me a feast if I won.  Break point: I miss a return of a second serve. There are certain cardinal rules you must comply with, and one is to return a second serve in court. I was disgusted with that shot. Two more points pass me by; the scoreboard flickers like a pinball machine. 4 for Wade, 6 for Stove.

Somedays you have to keep bolstering yourself up and others just the reverse, making yourself relax. It’s one of the reasons tennis is so creative. You have to be alert to each moment, recognizing nuances of moods. Like two people who know each other very well, the Centre Court crowd and I share unspoken thoughts. They were quiet in their faith. My body finally felt my own; my racquet as if it were an extension of my arm. Serving at 3-3 in the second set, a drop volley just glided off my racquet. Soon I’m hitting every shot well. On my forehand side, the ball got bigger and bigger and seemed to stop in the air to be devoured. I aimed and fired. My reflexes and subconscious brain united. Pure instinct with an intellectual process. The extemporaneous with thought, calculation. My bottom lip was beginning to hurt from biting it. Spectators had fixed their gaze on me with the magnetic penetration that can even wake one from sleep. Nationalistic pride beamed from their faces.

Artist Bio for Rosemary Taylor (from her website):

Rosemary was not a passionate follower of sport. What fascinated her was the balance and body movements of world-class athletes at their peak – in particular tennis and cricket players. Her paintings are powerful studies showing a fascination for the human body in disciplined movement. Rosemary would set up a camera and tripod either at sporting events, such as Wimbledon, or in front of the TV; so she could take photos of the athletes and study them at length.

She was inspired by the method used by fellow artist Hockney, whom she saw using a Polaroid to freeze the way the water moved in his iconic painting ‘The Bigger Splash’.She would choose a pivotal moment in a game or match to provide a portrait of the athletes characteristic style and movement. And aficionados of cricket could recognise the players from their movement, even when their faces were not distinct. 

The detail in her paintings demonstrates a clear understanding of movement, shape and angles. Often the figures are like reflections in clear but rippled water. The sports paintings are on a vast scale and feature striking contemporary images of well-known sporting legends. A prime example are the paintings Lillee and Thomson – depicting two of the fastest bowlers of the 20th century. 

Rosemary left behind a large body of work, oil on canvas, amounting to some 72 paintings. In addition to the sports paintings, her prolific collection of work includes still lives and nudes. She also produced a number of charcoal sketches on brown paper done from nude studies in a church in Islington. Internationally renowned art dealer Annely Juda once told Rosemary her paintings ‘should sell like hotcakes,’ but at the time she didn’t want to part with them. Only a handful of her original paintings have been sold to date, to wealthy collectors in South Africa and the UK.

As well as the original paintings, reproductions are available to buy as giclées – fine art prints on canvas.

For free posts every Thursday in your email featuring original art from around the world and creative new perspectives and prose, follow Tennis Players as Works of Art below:

Happy to announce that this blog has been named one of Feedspot’s top tennis blogs, websites & influencers of 2023.

3 replies on “Virginia Wade: 1977 Wimbledon, Art by Rosemary Taylor”

Leave a Reply