One of the favourite leisure activities on the beach at Scheveningen, which by the end of the nineteenth century had developed from a small fishing village into a chic beach resort, was playing tennis, a sport imported from England.
In 1901, Liebermann first explored the subject in drawings made on site. In his painting Tennis Players at the Seashore – 1st Version the painter shows an even elevation right in front of the shore, which is used for a game. Two ladies dressed in ankle-length flared skirts, belts, blouses and summer hats are standing in the right foreground and take on the two young men on the other side of the net. We do not see the ball, but the woman in the pink blouse is probably about to serve: the opponents turn their attention to her. Waiting for her to play, the men are getting into position. But is this about sport, or rather about … lifestyle? The players’ upright postures and their measured sidesteps point to relaxed leisure more than sporting ambition… Capturing the movements of the players with flowing ease, Liebermann skilfully conveys the particular atmosphere at the seaside. Bright colour fields with smooth transitions suggest a fresh summer day. On the right, the court is lined by a number of roofed wicker beach chairs and some people who casually turn towards the game.