The Eight best sporting artworks (part 3)

6. Dynamism of a Cyclist

Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice

Racing along, wheels spinning, head down, knees pumping, covering immense distances at high speed: how to depict a champion cyclist in action? Any 2D image seems to limit the sense of ongoing motion, and this wasn’t good enough for the Italian futurists. Arguably the best of them, Umberto Boccioni follows the French photographer Etienne-Jules Marey, whose split-second shots of soldiers sprinting were recorded on the same picture, in showing past, present, and future at the same time. Umberto Boccioni‘s cyclist, an overlapping sequence of stop-start instants, did the same thing, maybe more legibly, with a little dog running along on a leash.

  1. The Discobolus

British Museum, London

The stunning Discobolus, a classical athlete who is compressing all his power into one fling of the discus, is one of the most famous images from the ancient world. This statue is a Roman copy of the lost bronze original, which is attributed to the sculptor Myron c470-440 BC. The moment is so fleeting that it could be scarcely observed as a still form, yet the sculptor transforms it into a monument of judgment, balance, and athleticism. Discus-throwing was the first element of the pentathlon, regarded as a feat of grace and athleticism. However, this copy has the head looking away wrongly from the discus.

  1. The Reverend Robert Walker  (1755 – 1808) Skating on Duddingston Loch

Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh

The Reverend Robert Walker is an ideal Olympic candidate: a founder member and brilliant amateur of the Edinburgh Skating Club. The most famous painting of Raeburn shows Walker sweeping on one leg across Duddingston loch and yet in full motion. It is the portrait like an action shot. The figure cuts a dark diagonal through the grey light with his blades etching criss-cross lines on the ice, which perfectly mimicked in the paint. Walker was also a member of the Royal Company of Archers.

 

The eight best sporting artworks (part 2)

  1. Pulcinella and the Tumblers, 1797, by Tiepolo

Museo del Settecento Veneziano, Venice

Those traveling gymnasts are putting on a show in 18th century in Venice, where Tiepolo painted the scene as a fresco. Pulcinella refers to the hook-nosed trickster in a black mask, a Commedia del’arte figure somewhere between Punch and Harlequin, which is responsible for turning the world upside down. This is exactly what these gymnasts are enacting with all of their springy athleticism. For what Tiepolo depicts is the ability of the gymnast to walk on one’s hands meanwhile appearing to tumble all around the place and to topple while keeping one’s balance.

4. The Biglin Brothers Turning the Stake, 1873, painted by Thomas Eakins

Cleveland Art Museum

The Biglin Brothers Turning the Stake commemorates America’s first pair-oared sculling race, which was held on the Schuykill River in Philadelphia in 1872. The painting shows the Biglin brothers turning the stake with John pushing his oar and Barney pulling his to create the gliding movement that was repeated in Eakins’s beautiful composition. The Biglin brothers are winning as their opponents are still rowing towards their flag in the distance. The picture well celebrates their team spirit and closeness. The great realist Eakins painted from personal experience when he was a dedicated oarsman on the very same river, too.

5. A Rally, 1885, Sir John Lavery

Glasgow Museums Resource Centre

Lawn tennis was quite new when the young woman in Sir John Lavery’s painting A Rally hit the ball back across the net. The Anecdote has it that Major Walter Clopton Wingfield started playing outdoors with vulcanized rubber balls in London in 1874 and Sir John Lavery, the Irish-born painter, got the bug on his return from Paris only a few years later. His painting emphasized on the woman in her hopelessly impractical but fetching dress, dramatized her energy and concentration. Sir John Lavery also painted some tennis scenes in Scotland, each regarded pioneering, rather like the player herself.

The eight best sporting artworks (part 1)

Let’s enjoy the art of physical exercise, from the famous Scottish skating minister to Rousseau’s footballers and Manet’s racehorses…

  1. The Races at Longchamps, 1867, by Edouard Manet

Art Institute of Chicago

During the Second Empire (1852-70), horse racing enjoyed a revival and the Longchamps track was built on the banks of the Seine near the Bois de Boulogne, a park on the outskirts of Paris. Being opened in 1857, it is still one of the leading thoroughbred racetracks in the world up to now. In 1863, Edouard Manet began to plan a large, horizontal work which would convey the dynamism of its races and the bustle of its crowds. Manet ultimately abandoned this panoramic composition; however, the smaller variant of the Art Institute retains its gist in more concentrated form.

The Races at Longchamps is startling as a pictorial conception. Manet, a keen visitor to the Longchamps track, records the last moments of a race, showing the thundering horses as a single vignette, separated from the spectators just by a fragile fence and raising clouds of dust. The race is so fast that the crowd’s heads are merging into a blur while turning to follow.

Unlike traditional sporting artists, always showing races from the side, Manet composed the scene so that the throng of horses thunders straight toward the viewer.

  1. The Football Players, 1908, by Henri Rousseau

Guggenheim Museum, New York

Henri Rousseau’s artwork The Football Players is a primitivism style oil painting that was created on canvas. In the present, it is located at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York.

In 1908, The Football Players was created to show modern times instead of historical images. The painting features a landscape with rich colors in the background and trees with four football players running on a path, tossing around the ball. They are wearing striped pajamas, having smiles on their faces and each of them has a handlebar mustache.

 

The relationship between sport and art

 

Sport and art seem to be very different disciplines. Is there any connection between them?

When being young, Roald Bradstock had an interest in both sport and art. Later, he became an Olympic javelin thrower, who represented Great Britain in the 1984 and 1988 Olympics, and also gained a degree in art. However, he explained that these activities were very different and not very compatible on day two of the Peace and Sports Forum in Monaco

This lack of compatibility of these activities caused him some difficulties. He spent years struggling with being both an athlete and an artist – both two disciplines take a lot of time and energy.

However, that has changed now. Nicknamed as “the Olympic Picasso”, Roald Bradstock produces creative colorful representations of equipment and depictions of sporting scenes.

His attitude changed around the year 2000 when he took part in a competition held by the United States Olympic Committee. “Struggle for Perfection”, his painting, was chosen as the winner and then featured in the Olympic Museum in Switzerland.

He did more research and discovered that co-founder of the modern Olympic Games Pierre de Coubertin was an artist. Coubertin himself designed the Olympic rings and also won a poetry competition in 1912.

Mark Spitz, nine-time Olympic swimming champion, one of Bradstock’s idols, was a painter. Muhammed Ali and Pele used to paint, too.

You could find further connections between sport and art if you look at major sporting events. Tickets are sold not only for the sporting events themselves but also for the opening and closing ceremonies. For example, the Super Bowl contains a heavily anticipated half-time show.

Bradstock realized that art is everywhere in sport – logos, mascots, typography, medals, and cups – all have to be designed by someone. These discoveries changed his viewpoint and he started to combine sport and art in his life.

He painted his outfits, javelins and javelin runways. He threw all kinds of objects and broke some records – “some official, some unofficial and some highly questionable”. He became famous for his eccentric outfits that people started to want to know what he would wear, do, and throw next.

Now, he believes that sport and art are perfect partners. They can be a powerful combination to be used in advocacy and development programmes.

“Combining sport and art in a new way is a fantastic tool. They are two universal languages to create platform to unite everyone for peace.”