Sporting modernity : sports, art, and the athletic body in Germany, 1918-1938 / by Joann Maria Skrypzak.
Following World War I, sports became a popular phenomenon in Germany that critics often derided as a faddish "cult." But sports and art institutions and avant-garde artists looked more closely, and critically, at sports' potential to rejuvenate and cultivate a harmonious, democratic society. This dissertation examines images of sports in the visual arts in Weimar Germany to explore how its institutions and artists forged a link between sports and art and gave new visual form to ideas about the athletic body. It focuses on the 1930 sports-art exhibition Sports as Cultural Factor , sports at the Bauhaus school of design, and the sports pictures of László Moholy-Nagy, Anton Räderscheidt, and Willi Baumeister as exemplary case studies. Sports as Cultural Factor linked sports, culture, and national identity as it enlisted art to define German sports culture as aesthetic and ethical. A key part of the German Olympic Committee's pitch to host the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, its humanist view of sports art offers an insightful contrast to that of the 1936 "Nazi" Olympics themselves. The Bauhaus used sports to make art and artist training responsive to postwar social conditions. Its reform pedagogy inspired new ways of depicting the body, stressing its inherent form and function rather than conventions of ideal beauty. Based on this approach, the sports photomontages of Moholy-Nagy alternately define the athlete as a self-determined individual; a utopian "whole man" based on his Bauhaus writings; and a figure compromised by shifting gender relations, militarism, colonialism, or industrialism. Räderscheidt's sports paintings explore the challenge the "emancipated," athletic new woman posed to the modern "companionate" marriage. They first stress how her autonomous, nude athletics threaten her male counterpart, and then reduce her to a mere object of the gaze. Drawing on life-reform and technocratic concepts of the body as natural or mechanical, Baumeister's 1920s sports pictures present the athletic body motif as a rational technology of embodied expression. His 1930s works expand the view of embodied athletic experience to include the nonrational.
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