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Mrs. Walker said she was not a keen tennis player and had to wear her father's plimsolls.
She has one of the country's best known butts. But few people outside her family and friends would recognize the face of Fiona Walker - the woman whose cheeky lift of her tennis skirt became famous on the Athena poster. It went on to become one of the shop's best selling prints, yet there are many surprises behind the story of its inception. For instance, Mrs. Walker said she has little interest in tennis and the balls lying on the court were actually ones used to throw for her pet dog. Nevertheless, the picture is set to be at the heart of a special exhibition on tennis as an art form.
Mrs. Walker is now a 52-year-old freelance illustrator and mother of three. But in 1976, aged 18, her then photographer-boyfriend Martin Elliot persuaded her to let him take a shot of her on court hitching up her dress to reveal a bare bottom.
The setting was a university tennis court in Edgbaston, Birmingham, where the modern game of tennis was pioneered in 1859. Mr. Elliot sold the image to the poster chain Athena and more than two million copies were sold worldwide. Mrs. Walker said: "I think my children tell people that it's me but most people don't believe it." I was very naive and was paid nothing, and I think it's the biggest-selling poster ever." She said she had no regrets about doing it though.
"It never ceases to make me smile when I see it sometimes. I see it in very strange places." The photograph will be part of an exhibition in Birmingham's Barber Institute from May, which the organizers said would be the first exhibition to treat lawn tennis as an artistic subject. Curator Professor Anne Sumner said Tennis Girl was the image "most associated with tennis in this country."
Works by LS Lowry and Stanley Spencer are also included in the exhibition. To add a touch of cl’ass you understand. Or as they say in the South of England with their draaaawn out “a”s, a touch of cl’arse. Athena was a British art retailer, formerly a large retail chain famous for its distinctive posters, with an avowed intention of promoting an ethos on fine art reprints. Ho Ho Ho. The company's popular success divided opinion amongst intellectuals and art critics who were uncertain as to whether these works were too vulgar and populist to be considered art.
Ms Walker said she thought it was the lighting in the photograph that gave Tennis Girl its magic. ‘Ass what I said, of course it was the lighting. I knew it, I just knew it. That’s what really makes the picture stand-out. I couldn’t put a finger on it. It’s obvious when you realize it.
In the same way that the other iconic picture of the 70’s, of Farrah Fawcett showing off her mane of hair. I mean, that is why people bought that poster isn’t it. For the hair, the way she tilted her head back to reveal her ….hair tumbling across her shoulders? No? Are you sure? I must be missing something then.
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