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.