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.