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It depicts a scene during the Autumn Meeting of a foursome match on the 15th green of the Old Course at St Andrews, with Sir David Baird and Sir Ralph Anstruther competing against Major Playfair and John Campbell of Glensaddel, together with a crowd of 52 named onlookers. In the background is the ancient town of St Andrews.

The Golfers provides a unique visual panorama of the period, depicting the leading personalities of the sport at a time when the game was still almost exclusively Scottish. The painting is also of additional interest because of its link with photography. Major Playfair, the central figure in the painting, has been identified in a group photograph of golfers by D.O. Hill and Robert Adamson. The photographic connection becomes stronger on discovery that Hill’s brother, Alexander Hill, originally owned the painting, and may even have commissioned it. Recently, it has been suggested that this painting could be the earliest Scottish group portrait to be based on photographs.

Charles Lees RA, RSA was a Scottish portrait, landscape and genre painter. Born in Cupar, Fife (a few miles from St Andrews), he studied in Edinburgh under Sir Henry Raeburn and later in Rome. He became established as a portrait-painter in Edinburgh and was elected as one of the earliest Fellows of the Royal Scottish Academy in 1830.

The Golfers is a key acquisition for the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. Included among their collection of outstanding examples of golfing paintings from the 18th and early 19th centuries, are three related sketches by Charles Lees: an oil sketch of The Golfers plus two oil sketches of figures in the painting, the caddy, Sandy Pirrie and the golf-ball maker, Allan Robertson, both of whom were also pre-eminent professional golfers.

The Scottish National Portrait Gallery is proposing to lend this picture from time to time to the British Golf Museum in St Andrews where it can be viewed in a golfing context.