For the beauty of the gesture

11 octobre 2016

, , , Minute Art

Long before the contemporary and eclectic approach, artists have always represented the sport. As they now attach to change its codes and its perception, in the past, it is the sporting gesture and the body movement that inspired them.

The gesture in the heart of Ancient Art

In the ideology of Ancient Greece, the physical superiority and the moral perfection are two inseparable foundations. That is why in sculpture, antique statuary, on vases, mosaics or murals, it is common to find many performances of athletes. Bulging muscles, efficient movement, gesture as a tool reminding us how it is always necessary to obtain a perfect harmony between body and soul. In this sense, art has always sought to picture the sport, even before the discipline was named. One of the most famous statues of antiquity, attributed to the Athenian sculptor Myron and dated of the Vth century BC, represents an athlete throwing a disc. Named The Discus Thrower, this statue is geometrized, theoretical and pictures a man with a pure and perfect musculature. 


Although less famous, some "Olympic" sculptures of Myron come royally in the values ​​of the time when Art ignites the beauty of gestures and body. By contrast, centuries after was starving in terms of representations of the sport. Except for a few paintings depicting racquet, a very fashionable sport at the court of Louis XIV, the artistic preoccupations of the time longer revolve around Christian morality and religion in general, lowering the body to a simple bestiality.

Impressionism, movement and chronophotography

While the sport had almost disappeared from the artistic radar, this is at the end of the nineteenth century that art was interested about it again. It is the celebration of the moving body, the ode to physical effort and the advent of new pleasure brought by outdoor activities that is represented. As Jean-Marc Huitorel, art critic and author of The beauty of the gesture: Contemporary Art and Sport (2005), "The advent of sport, in the strict sense of the term, and the emergence of artistic modernity in Western societies are strictly contemporary.". While they turn back to the "Official Art", the Impressionists are taking their easels, their canvases and their brushes out of their workshop to be open to the world. They represent what they see and this echoes to the leisure of their contemporaries. The races of Claude Monet or Alfred Sisley, the horse races of Edouard Manet or Edgar Degas are some examples. 

The avant-garde painters of the twentieth century are going to continue on this path traced by Impressionists by looking to their sport through the prism of the movement and of the speed, characteristics of this era. Thus, between 1912 and 1926, Robert Delaunay tackled a series of artworks where he painted football, soccer or running as the famous "Riders" inspired by Cubism. 

The doctor in History of Contemporary Art, Pierre-Olivier Douphis, justifies even "If Delaunay is interested in sports, it is because he seeks to represent pictorially the energy and dynamism of the modern world". Painting and sculpture however gradually yield their seats to a technical revolution that rears its lens and that will permanently reverse the Art report to sports: photography. Gradually, it is the camera pictures that represent the aesthetic and the sports movement, chronophotography finding in it a prominent place. Innovative-inspired as Etienne-Jules Marey and Georges Demenÿ being the first to break down the motion of a body in action when it jumps or runs. Lured by the success of sports photography at the turn of the 1930s, emerging dictatorships turn it into an instrument of propaganda for fascism, Nazism or Stalinism. Symbolic of this movement, the German photographer Leni Riefenstahl (1902-2003) extols in his photos the advent of the athlete in martial force.

Diversion of codes and distanced approach

Possible consequence of these excesses or simple evolution of artistic purposes that no longer seek to represent reality as it is, sport in Art is becoming increasingly rare in the second half of the twentieth century. Still, the paintings of Francis Bacon or series of Nicolas de Staël on footballers and about the « Parc des Princes » demonstrate that the interest was not extinguished. But this flamboyant series created in 1952 by de Stael is already facing a contemporary world where it is no longer the main issue that is referred, for example the France-Sweden match, but aesthetic. "I chose to take care seriously of the matter in motion," also explains the artist.

During the 1980s and even more in the 1990s, the sport has become eloquently in Art. Result of a double trend where sport is out of stadiums, overflowing in all areas of our daily lives, and where Art was turned on what surrounded him. Contemporary representation of Sport in Art no longer responds to the image of the body in action as before but favors a work based on objects related to the practice. Thus, balloons, balls, jerseys, flags and trophies are diverted to form the material of certain artworks. Reflect of many ways of our society, its excesses and its torments, sport allows artists to understand the world as it goes, or as it malfunctions. Thus Laurent Perbos tip our taste for performance, Sophie Dalla Rosa laughs about cups brandishes on final nights or Chloe Ruchon invented the "Barbie-Foot". "Art is considering sport in its dual dimension of fun and alienation" argues Jean-Marc Huitorel. 

Still, tortured and distorted, sport keeps a certain nobility in the eyes of contemporary artists such as those of the Chilean painter, Claudio Bravo (1936-2011), with his artwork "Before the game" (2003). Although their relationship has not always been symbiotic, linked since antiquity, art and sport are inseparable.

Thierry Zdzieblo, from sport to art

Passionated about sport, Thierry started a high-level career. He specializes in ultra marathon with the taste of challenge and adventure. In 1995, he performed a solo crossing of a part of Western Sahara. This event marks him forever because the race turns into a introspection and an artistic quest. Back in France, he decided to embark on creation. He begins with woodcarving that he quickly gives up to create figurative paintings. His entourage encouraged him to find his way into abstraction. His painting are in the move of lyrical abstraction and his artworks are full of movement, color and passion. They are tonic and carried by a vitality that stimulates energies. He managed to absolve any influence to give voice to his inner impulses.